Oncology: Controlling Constipation

Constipation (difficulty passing stool) is a common side effect of chemotherapy and pain medicine. Constipation can be caused by other medications you are taking. It can also occur if you’re not getting enough exercise and nourishment. Fluids are important in managing constipation.

Man and woman outdoors, walking.

3 steps to help treat constipation

Step 1. Drink plenty of fluids

Water, prune juice, and warm drinks are good choices.

Step 2. Eat high-fiber foods

Whole grains, fruit, and vegetables all can help prevent constipation, by increasing stool bulk, making it easier to pass.

Step 3. Exercise often

Taking a short walk each day is a good way to start. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.


When to see your healthcare provider

Contact your doctor if:

  • You have no bowel movement in 3 days or more, especially if you are taking vinca alkaloids (vinblastine, vincristine, or vinorelbine).

  • You are vomiting.

  • You have pain in your abdomen.

Medications can also help

Ask your doctor about the medications used to manage constipation. A stool softener or laxative may be prescribed. These can relieve constipation by helping you have a bowel movement. Do not take any over-the-counter product without asking your doctor first.