Diet after anal cancer
Find out how you might need to change your diet after treatment for anal cancer. Your digestion may take time to settle down, whichever treatment you have had.
Diet after anal cancer
Your bowel will take time to settle down after treatment for anal cancer. You may need to make some long term changes to your diet.
Diet after surgery
If you've had part of your bowel removed during surgery, it can make your stools less solid. The bowel absorbs water as stools pass through it. Some foods can cause wind, which is hard to control if you have had a colostomy. It will take a bit of experimenting to find out which foods upset your system. Foods that often cause problems with wind include high fibre fruits and vegetables, onions and cabbage, fizzy drinks and beer, and rich or fatty foods. If you have difficulty with a particular food, leave it out for a while and try again later.
Diet after radiotherapy and chemotherapy
Radiotherapy makes the rectum irritated and inflamed. This means you may need to open your bowels frequently and urgently. This side effect usually improves 3 to 4 weeks after the end of treatment. Chemotherapy can also give you diarrhoea and may make you feel sick. Speak to your specialist nurse or doctor if this is the case. They can suggest ways to reduce side effects.
You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the living with anal cancer section.
Any changes in your diet will depend on the type of operation you have had. If you've had your anus and rectum removed, you won't be able to eat immediately after your operation. But by the time you go home, you should be able to eat a regular diet.
If you've had part of your bowel removed during surgery, it can make your stools less solid. The bowel absorbs water as stools pass through it. So having less bowel means less water will be absorbed.
Some foods can cause wind, which is hard to control when you have had a colostomy. It will take a bit of experimenting to find out which foods upset your system. Foods that often cause problems with wind include
- high fibre fruits and vegetables
- onions and cabbage
- fizzy drinks and beer
- rich or fatty foods
There is nothing you absolutely cannot eat. You may also find that what upsets you at first is fine a couple of months later. So, if you do have difficulty with a particular food, leave it out for a while and try again later.
If you are having problems, your hospital can refer you to a dietitian, who can help you work out a diet that suits you. You might also find it useful to keep a food diary before you see the dietitian. A food diary is a record of
- what you eat
- when you eat
- any digestive problems you have, and when you have them
A food diary over a week may be able to tell which foods are causing you problems. You can then cut them out of your diet.
Radiotherapy for anal cancer often causes frequent bowel movements. This is because the rectum gets irritated and inflamed. It can also mean that you need to open your bowels urgently. Your doctor can prescribe drugs to reduce the inflammation. If the problem is severe, you may need steroid enemas. This is when a small amount of steroid liquid is squeezed into the bowel. The steroid reduces inflammation. The frequent bowel movements usually settle down about 3 to 4 weeks after treatment has finished.
During recovery from treatment, it can help to stick to a low fibre diet. Over time, you can start eating the high fibre foods you cut out before. Some people also avoid alcohol as they find it makes their bowel symptoms worse.
Read about diet after radiotherapy for anal cancer.
Chemotherapy for anal cancer can give you diarrhoea and might make you feel sick. These side effects will disappear after your treatment is over. Over time, you will be able to get back to a regular diet.
You are likely to have a combination of chemotherapy with radiotherapy. This can make the side effects harder to cope with. Speak to your specialist nurse or doctor if this is the case. They can suggest ways to reduce any unpleasant side effects.
Read about diet and chemotherapy
Read about coping with diet problems
Find out about managing diarrhoea
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