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/mimi). Let your team know if you’re struggling to empty your bowels (poo/
tūtae
).

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 wai/water. If you’re having trouble with frequent trips to the
    wharepaku/toilet
    , 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 kai/food diary for a while. This might help you see connections between the kai/food 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,
    doing karakia, going for a swim in the moana.
    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 Australia, your GP can refer you to a local service that specialises in bowel issues.

Look for continence services
and resources online

Continence New Zealand is a good place to start, and also has a database that you can search to find continence physiotherapists or advisors, as well as pelvic floor safe fitness instructors near you.

Call the free helpline on 0800 650 659 if you need to talk or have questions.

Know where to find
a wharepaku/toilet

To help ease your mind and to make sure you know where to find public wharepaku/toilets when you’re out, download a toilet map for city centres around New Zealand or download the CamperMate™ travel app for locations outside cities.

You can also apply for a Toilet Card which clearly states you have a medical condition requiring you to access a wharepaku/toilet quickly.

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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