Symptoms of constipation | Cancer Research UK
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Symptoms of constipation

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This page has information about the symptoms of constipation. Constipation means having difficulty opening your bowels. You can read about


Effects of constipation

Constipation is a common symptom in people with cancer and during cancer treatment. If you are constipated you won’t have regular bowel movements (poo, stools or faeces) and may go days without one. Knowing what is normal for you will help you decide if you have constipation or not.

The early symptoms of constipation can include

  • Difficulty and pain when having a bowel movement
  • Fewer than 3 bowel movements a week
  • Having to strain a lot when trying to open your bowels
  • Hard poo (stools or faeces) that looks like small hard pellets
  • Feeling bloated and sluggish

Severe constipation

Severe constipation can cause more serious symptoms such as

  • A swollen, hard tummy (abdomen)
  • Very liquid diarrhoea that you can’t control at all (overflow diarrhoea)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling and being sick
  • Headaches

If you have constipation

Make sure that you get treatment for constipation. It will make it much easier to sort the problem out. Leaving constipation for too long can lead to more serious problems such as a bowel blockage (obstruction).

If you have not had a bowel movement for more than 3 days, let your doctor or nurse know straight away. There are medicines to help with constipation.

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Updated: 21 May 2014