Constipation due to chemotherapy

Constipation due to chemotherapy

A child is constipated when they are passing bowel motions less often than usual, and/or are having difficulty passing the bowel motion, and/or the bowel motion is hard. Constipation can be caused by some medicines and is more likely during periods of immobility. Dehydration can also be a contributing factor. The chemotherapy medicine most likely to cause constipation is Vincristine. 

What is constipation?

A child is constipated when they are passing bowel motions less often than usual, and/or are having difficulty passing the bowel motion, and/or the bowel motion is hard.

What can cause constipation in a child receiving treatment for cancer?

Constipation can be caused by some medicines and is more likely during periods of immobility. Dehydration can also be a contributing factor.

The chemotherapy medicine most likely to cause constipation is Vincristine. 

What can be done?

A child receiving chemotherapy will be given a plan by the doctor or nurse to guard against and manage constipation. This may include a laxative or softener and will include advice about how to increase the child's intake of fluids and high fibre foods.

What can I do?
  • tell your doctor or nurse if there are any blood streaks or mucous in your child's bowel motions. It may mean there is an anal fissure requiring treatment
  • tell your child's doctor or nurse if your child is constipated and you need more help or advice
  • ask the dietician or your child's doctor how much your child should drink if they are constipated

See the following for advice about food and fluids for a child who is constipated:

What are possible complications?

Hard bowel motions can cause a fissure (tear) in the anal canal (back passage) 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 neutropaenia.

Where to go for more information and support

On this website

All the information in the Childhood cancer section of this website has 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 National Child Cancer Network Clinical Leader.

 

This page last reviewed 22 June 2013.
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