PDFs by language
Our 24/7 cancer helpline provides support for people dealing with cancer. We can connect you with trained cancer information specialists who will answer questions about a cancer diagnosis and provide guidance and a compassionate ear.
Chat live online
Select the Live Chat button at the bottom of the page
At our National Cancer Information Center trained Cancer Information Specialists can answer questions 24 hours a day, every day of the year to empower you with accurate, up-to-date information to help you make educated health decisions. We connect patients, caregivers, and family members with valuable services and resources.
Or ask us how you can get involved and support the fight against cancer. Some of the topics we can assist with include:
For medical questions, we encourage you to review our information with your doctor.
When your bowels move less often than normal or when your stool becomes hard and is difficult to pass, it is called constipation. This can cause discomfort.
You might become constipated because there is not enough fluid in your digestive system or not enough movement in your intestine (bowel or colon) where stool is formed and pushed through to be passed from the body. Certain people with cancer might have an increased risk for constipation if they have a tumor in the belly or pelvis or get certain types of cancer treatment. Lack of activity, changes in food intake, or poor fluid intake add to the problem. And people who take certain kinds of pain medicine, especially opioids, are more at risk of constipation.
The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Cherny NI, Werman B. Diarrhea and constipation. In DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2019:2086-2094.
LeFebvre KB, Rogers B, Wolles B. Cancer constipation: Clinical summary or the ONS Guidelines for opioid-induced and non-opioid-related cancer constipation. Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2020, 24(6), 685-688.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. (NCCN) Palliative care : Constipation. Version 2.2019. Accessed at https://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/palliative.pdf on September 17, 2019.
National Cancer Institute. (NIH). Gastrointestinal complications (PDQ)- Health Professional version. 2018. Accessed at https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/constipation/gi-complications-hp-pdq. on September 17, 2019.
Thorpe DM, Byar KL. Bowel dysfunction. In Brown CG, ed. A Guide to Oncology Symptom Management. 2nd ed. Pittsburgh, PA: Oncology Nursing Society; 2015:77-118.
Last Revised: December 21, 2020
American Cancer Society medical information is copyrighted material. For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.