Bowel problems

After surgery and radiotherapy, some women have changed bowel habits. You may experience constipation or diarrhoea, or feel pain in your lower abdomen.

You may be able to make simple changes in your lifestyle to decrease bowel problems. For example, sucking strong peppermints or drinking peppermint tea can reduce abdominal pain. You can also talk to your doctor about making changes to your diet or taking medication.

Constipation

Constipation is bowel movements that come less often than normal for you, are painful, or are hard to pass. Let your doctor or nurse know if you experience constipation. Your medication may be changed or other medication given to relieve the constipation.

Tips:

  • Eat more high-fibre foods, such as wholegrain bread and pasta, bran, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. This will help loosen the bowels. Warm and hot drinks such as coffee or tea may help.
  • Get some light exercise. Walking or riding an exercise bike are good options.
  • If you are taking laxatives containing fibre, make sure you drink plenty of fluids.

Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is frequent bowel movements which may be soft, formed, loose, or watery.

Tips:

  • Drink plenty of fluids to replace fluid lost. If the diarrhoea is severe, it may cause dehydration and you may need to be admitted to hospital.
  • Try drinking only clear liquids, such as apple juice, peach nectar, weak tea and clear broth, as soon as diarrhoea starts, or when you feel it is going to start.
  • Ask your treatment team to prescribe medication to relieve the diarrhoea.
  • Avoid spicy foods, coarse wholegrain products, fatty or fried foods, rich gravies and sauces and raw fruit or vegetables with skins or seeds. Instead, try snacking on clear broth and toast, biscuits and cheese, or cooked rice.
  • Eat small, frequent snacks instead of big meals.
  • After the diarrhoea has cleared up, it is important to slowly reintroduce a healthy eating plan that includes fresh fruits and vegetables and wholegrain breads and pasta.