Bowel issues after treatment

Whether you’re having bowel movements too often or not often enough, being irregular is frustrating. It can even make you feel a bit self-conscious.

Constipation is quite normal
after prostate cancer treatment

Some bowel issues, like constipation (trouble pooing or emptying your bowels) are normal after treatment. They are especially common after surgery. Long-term bowel issues after treatment, however, are rare. If you’re experiencing some unusual or painful changes to your bowel habits, it’s important to speak to your care team.

Constipation can also put pressure on your bladder, making it more difficult to urinate (wee). Let your team know if you’re struggling to empty your bowels (poo).

Radiation therapy (radiotherapy) can cause
issues besides constipation

After radiation therapy, you might experience changes to your bowel habits. These changes are usually temporary and include constipation, diarrhoea and strong urges to relieve yourself. For more specific information, read about bowel issues after radiation therapy.

Taking
charge

If you’re having bowel issues, don’t be afraid to speak up. Your doctors are there to help you and can prescribe a treatment tailored to your needs.

There are some things you can do at home to help take charge of your symptoms:

  • Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. If you’re having trouble with frequent trips to the bathroom, this will help get you back to normal from constipation. Fluids will also rehydrate you after having diarrhoea.

  • Avoid or decrease your intake of spicy and greasy foods, as well as coffee, tea, fizzy drinks and alcohol (these are all drinks that can irritate your digestive system).

  • If you have occasional urgent bowel movements, try keeping a food diary for a while. This might help you see connections between the foods you eat and the urgency of bowel movements.

  • Manage the stress of your side effects in a way that works for you. For some, that’s taking a quiet walk alone. For others, it’s doing breathing exercises or meditation. Find something that brings you a sense of calm and revisit it as often as you need.

Talk to your doctor, nurse
or care team

If your bowel issues are bothering you and preventing you from doing your usual daily activities, speak to your doctor. This could be your family doctor, or doctor that’s been treating the cancer (such as a urologist or radiation oncologist). Your doctor may prescribe medications to help with either constipation or diarrhoea. You can also speak with a nurse (a continence nurse specialist, if available) about getting help.

In the UK, your GP can refer you to your local continence service or you can refer yourself.

Look for continence services
and resources online

Search your local community trust website for bladder and bowel or continence services. Alternatively, the Bladder and Bowel Community has a database which you can search to find a service near you.

Know where to
find a toilet

The National Key Scheme (NKS) offers a key that will help get you access to locked public toilets. If you live in Northern Ireland, these keys are available for a small fee from your local council office. Additionally, Macmillan can send you a free toilet card and key ring, which you can use to explain why you need the toilet urgently. Find out more here​.

To help ease your mind and to make sure you know where to find toilets when you’re out, you can use a toilet finder tool to find the public toilet nearest you.

Additional Resources

Managing bowel side effects
Information and advice about bladder and bowel problems

What's next?

Now that you've read up on Bowel issues after treatment , here are some related articles to explore as you continue to build your knowledge and understanding of this topic.
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