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Constipation in Cancer Patients

In general, constipation is caused by one or a combination of these factors: deficiency of fiber in one’s diet, insufficient exercise and fluid intake, habitual traveling that leads to altered bowel habits, poor bowel habits, hormonal changes due to aging, pregnancy or menopause and medications that have a hardening effect on stools.

If your constipation problem is caused by one of the above mentioned factors; you should consider yourself very fortunate. For some not so fortunate people, constipation is not their condition; constipation is just a manifestation of a more serious disease such as cancer.

Possible Causes of Constipation in Cancer Patients

In some people, constipation is a manifestation of cancer. Constipation can appear in the earlier stages or later stages of cancer diagnosis. It can be caused by an emergent tumors or while the tumors are being treated.

Constipation in cancer patients can also be caused by the usual culprits mentioned above PLUS an array of other contributing factors which include: diseases associated with the cancer, medications used to combat the cancer, possible organ failure, insufficient mobility and depression.

To be more specific, these are the most frequently observed causes of constipation in cancer patients:

The usual culprits: low fiber in the diet and low fluid intake.
Decreased mobility or insufficient exercise.
Chemotherapy or any agent associated with chemotherapy that causes a person’s nervous system to be altered, e.g. thalidomide, opioids or tranquilizers, oxaliplatins, taxanes and vinca alkaloids.
Bowel disorders such as diverticulitis, irritable colon, irritable bowel syndrome and tumors.
Neuromuscular disorders such as injury or compression of the spinal cord which can lead to bowel weakness and inactivity.
Metabolic disorders such as Hypercalcemia, dehydration or Uremia.
Atony of the muscles such as carcinoma, cachexia or anemia.

How to Alleviate Constipation in Cancer Patients

Constipation in cancer patients is difficult to alleviate since it is not only their main problem; remember that they have the more serious problem, cancer. Constipation treatment in cancer patients will vary from patient to patient.

For cancer patients exhibiting occasional constipation, the doctor may prescribe a complete diet program. The program will incorporate ample amount of fiber found in green leafy vegetables, anything whole grain, fruits such as papayas, prunes, figs, dates, mangoes and many others. Simple exercises and increased fluid intake will also be implemented.

For cancer patient exhibiting chronic constipation, the doctor may incorporate with the diet program a host of enemas, laxatives that provide moisture and bulk to stools and suppositories.

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