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Some anticancer drugs and other drugs, such as pain medications, may cause constipation. This problem can also occur if your diet lacks enough fluid or fiber, or if you've been in bed for a long time. Here are some suggestions for preventing and treating constipation:
  • Drink plenty of liquids -- at least eight 8-ounce glasses every day. This will help to keep your stools soft. Another way to think about fluids is to try to drink at least ½ ounce per pound of your body weight.
  • Have a hot drink about 30 minutes before your usual time for a bowel movement.
  • Check with your doctor to see if you can increase the fiber in your diet (there are certain types of cancer for which a high-fiber diet is not recommended). If you can, try foods such as whole grain breads and cereals, dried fruits, wheat bran, and wheat germ. Fresh fruits and vegetables, dried beans, and dried peas also contain good amounts of fiber. Eat the skin on potatoes. Make sure you also drink plenty of fluids to help the fiber work. (See Colon Cancer Recipes for an easy recipe for an apple/prune sauce that might help relieve constipation.)
  • Get some exercise every day. Talk to your doctors or a physical therapist about the amount and type of exercise that's right for you.
If these suggestions don't work, ask your healthcare provider about medicine to ease constipation. Be sure to check with him or her before taking any laxatives or stool softeners.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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