Constipation due to chemotherapy

Constipation due to chemotherapy

Constipation is when a child is doing poo less often than usual, and/or is having difficulty doing poo, and/or the poo is hard.

Key points to remember

This page is part of a whole section about childhood cancer.

  • constipation is when your child is doing poo less often than usual, and/or is having difficulty doing poo, and/or the poo is hard
  • some medicines can cause constipation
  • your child's doctor or nurse will give you a plan to try and prevent or manage constipation

What is constipation?

Constipation is when your child is doing poo, and/or is having difficulty doing poo, and/or the poo is hard.

What can cause constipation?

Some medicines can cause constipation. It is more likely during periods when your child isn't moving much. Dehydration can also increase the chances your child will have constipation.

The chemotherapy medicine most likely to cause constipation is Vincristine.

What can I do?

Your child's doctor or nurse will provide a plan to try to prevent or manage constipation. This may include a laxative or softener. The plan will include advice on how to increase the amount of fluid and high fibre foods your child has.

  • tell your doctor or nurse if there are any blood streaks or mucus in your child's poo - it may mean there is a tear (anal fissure) which needs treatment
  • tell your child's doctor or nurse if your child is constipated and you need more help or advice
  • ask the dietitian or your child's doctor how much your child should drink if they are constipated

What foods and fluids can help?

How much fluid your child needs depends on their age. Your child's dietitian or doctor will give you advice about this.

A daily serving of one of the high fibre foods below will help your child if they are constipated:

  • wholemeal bread, wholegrain bread and bran muffins
  • wholegrain cereals such as Weetbix, Fruitybix and porridge, and bran added to cereals
  • all fruit and vegetables especially with the skins left on and especially corn
  • kiwifruit and Kiwi-crush (crushed kiwifruit from the freezer section in the supermarket), prunes and prune juice

What are possible complications?

Hard poo can cause a tear in the back passage (anal canal) which can be painful and slow to heal and can allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream. This may result in serious infections during periods of neutropenia.

More detailed information about constipation

See Constipation for more information but check the advice with your child's cancer doctor or dietitian.

See Constipation for more detailed information about constipation and what to do. This page is for all children who are constipated, not just children with cancer. It's best to check the advice with your child's doctor or dietitian.

All the pages in the childhood cancer section of this website have been written by health professionals who work in the field of paediatric oncology. They have been reviewed by the members of the National Child Cancer Network (NZ). Medical information is authorised by the clinical leader of the National Child Cancer Network.

This page last reviewed 22 May 2018.
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