Types of bowel changes you
bloating, gas and abdominal pain
sensitivity to certain triggers (spicy foods/seeds and nuts)
feeling an urge to have a bowel movement (poo), but not being able to
feeling that your bowels haven’t emptied properly
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.
Here are some ways to take control:
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.
If you’re losing control of your stools, give yourself some sense of security by having extra clothes available, in a gym bag, in your car or at your workplace.
If you are having any issues with bloody stools, there are a few things for you to consider:
Tell your doctor and make sure you’re up to date on your recommended colonoscopy screening.
Rectal bleeding gets worse when you’re constipated. Stay hydrated, and eat easy to digest high fibre food.
Haemorrhoids can be inside the rectum where you cannot see them or external under the skin around the anus. Straining with bowel movements can make both kinds of haemorrhoids flare and bleed. Though they’re not uncommon, you should tell your doctor what you’re experiencing.
Talk to your doctor, nurse
or care team
f 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.
A urology nurse or continence nurse specialist can help you find a local bladder and bowel service.
Look for continence services
and resources online
The Continence Foundation of Ireland offers information on physiotherapy for bowel and bladder control, and you can search for a physiotherapist working in your area on the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists website. Information on continence care for adults can also be found by visiting Health Services Ireland.
Know where to
find a toilet
In Ireland, you may also be able to get a medical card for speedier access to toilet facilities. The card is wallet-sized and discrete, and was developed by the Irish Cancer Society (ICS).
To learn more, contact the ICS Cancer Nurseline on 1800 200 700, or the ICS Daffodil Centre.