Assessing your constipation | Cancer Research UK
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Assessing your constipation

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This page has information on assessing constipation. There is information below about


Talking about your constipation

Some people find it hard to talk about being constipated. You may feel embarrassed or upset by your problem or worry about what is causing it. It’s completely natural to feel like this, but remember that your doctors and nurses will be able to suggest ways to treat and relieve constipation. So don’t be afraid to ask for their help.

A research nurse talking to a Belfast local about Cancer Research UK work

If you find it difficult to talk with your doctors or nurses, it may help to write down any problems and give them to your doctor or nurse to read. It can also help to have a friend or relative go along with you and do the talking.

If you go for treatment in an open day unit, you can ask to go into a private room to discuss your bowel problems. Your doctors and nurses will completely understand if you want to speak to them in private, so don’t be afraid to ask.


What your doctor or nurse will do

Before your doctor or nurse can treat your constipation they need to find out how bad it is and what is causing it. They may give you laxatives to soften your stools or to move them through your bowel faster. 

There are several other ways of helping with constipation, which they may suggest. They will probably want to ask you lots of questions. It is very important that your doctor or nurse takes the time to assess all aspects of your constipation so you get the right treatment. They will examine you and possibly arrange some other tests and investigations.

If you begin to suffer from constipation you should see your doctor or nurse as soon as possible. The sooner they can treat your constipation, the more comfortable you will be.


Questions your doctor may ask

Your doctor may ask

  • When did you last open your bowels?
  • What do your stools look like?
  • Are the stools very hard?
  • What are your normal bowel habits like?
  • What other symptoms do you have – for example, do you feel sick, or have a swollen tummy?
  • What kind of foods do you eat?
  • How much exercise do you get?
  • How much do you drink each day?
  • What kind of drinks do you have?
  • Do you become constipated soon after you have had your cancer treatment?
  • When did you last have your cancer treatment?
  • Are you taking any other drugs?
  • Have you made any changes to your diet?
  • Are you taking any medicines to help with your constipation?

If you are feeling too uncomfortable or tired, and you really do not feel up to answering questions, then perhaps your family or close friends may be able to help.

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Updated: 21 May 2014