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Assessing constipation

Before you have treatment for constipation, your doctor or nurse will need to find out how bad it is. And what the cause could be.

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

Talking about constipation

Some people find it hard to talk about constipation. You might feel embarrassed or upset about it. Or you may worry about what the cause is. It’s completely natural to feel like this. Remember that your doctors and nurses can suggest ways to treat and relieve constipation. Don’t be afraid to ask for their help.

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

If your treatment is in an open day unit you can ask to go into a private room to discuss your bowel problems. Your doctors and nurses will 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. It is important to assess all aspects of your constipation so you get the right treatment. 

Your doctor or nurse might:

  • ask you lots of questions
  • examine you
  • arrange some other tests and investigations
  • give you laxiatives
  • suggest other ways of managing your constipation

Questions your doctor may ask

Your doctor may ask the following questions:

  • 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?

A family member or close friend could help answer questions if you are feeling too uncomfortable or tired, and you really don't feel able to speak to the doctor.

Information and help

Dangoor sponsorship

About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.