Cancer Constipation

By Dr. Shrey Lakhotia, BDS

Cancer constipation

Constipation can be a symptom of cancer, or it can occur later as a side effect of a growing tumor or from the treatment of a tumor.

How Cancer Causes Constipation

Common causes of constipation for those without cancer include not eating enough fiber, not drinking enough water or other fluids to stay hydrated, and not getting enough exercise. 

For those with cancer, the following factors may come into play.

1. Cancer related medications

  • Drugs prescribed for treating high blood pressure, diarrhea, seizures, vomiting and even depression.
  • Pain medications, which can dampen the muscular action of the bowel that moves food along.
  • Some chemotherapy drugs, which may temporarily affect the nerves controlling the bowel.

2. Not eating as much. Without sufficient stool to push against, the colon will move stool more slowly through the colon, giving it more time to dry out, making it hard and difficult to pass.

3. A bowel obstruction from scar tissue or tumors.

4. Tumor compression is caused when cancer creates pressure against the spinal cord.

5. The level of potassium is too low, a condition that may be caused by medications.

6. Other complications, such as organ failure, decreased mobility, and depression.

7. Abdominal surgery that weakens intestinal muscles, making it more difficult to evacuate stools. Depending on the type of surgery, this muscular weakness may be temporary or permanent.

Types of Cancer that Can Cause Constipation

When cancer causes an obstruction in the colon, that obstruction can result in a smaller diameter stool, bloating, cramping, pains in the abdomen and constipation.

1. Colon cancer / colorectal cancer

When stool enters the colon, it is a thick liquid that can flow around partial blockages or through narrow areas. As it progresses through the colon and more water is removed, it becomes thicker. 

This hinders its ability to get around blockages and narrow areas. A tumor in the middle to lower portions of the colon or in the rectum can obstruct stool flow, leading to constipation.

Also, as stool proceeds from the right colon to the left colon, the colon narrows. This is another reason why, when cancer occurs in the left side of the bowel, it tends to be more problematic in causing an obstruction, resulting in constipation.

2. Prostate cancer

Though not very common, prostate cancer can spread to part of the bowel (rectum). If this does happen, it can cause a blockage in the bowel, causing constipation symptoms, pain and bleeding.

3. Metastatic Spinal Cord Compression

This is caused when prostate cancer fingers out to the spine, which can result in metastatic spinal cord compression. 

This problem only occurs rarely, but if it does occur it can make it hard for the bowel to empty or there might be no control over emptying.

The Role of Magnesium

Cancer constipation - magnesium to the rescue!

Magnesium helps with bowel movements in at least two ways.

  1. Numerous things may cause the colon muscle to become tense, lessening its ability to move stool along. Magnesium can help to relax the colon muscle. If one is showing the symptoms caused by functional metabolic deficiency, including headaches, weakness, fatigue, restless leg syndrome, or muscle cramping, then magnesium’s role becomes even more important.

  2. Magnesium functions as an osmotic laxative, pulling water into the colon. This helps to moisten stool, making it softer and easier to pass.

Most of us don’t get the amount of magnesium from our food, which is one of the reasons why we are so constipated.

Certain foods are magnesium rich, and are highly recommended for getting the proper amount of magnesium in one’s diet.

Another way to get needed magnesium is with a magnesium supplement.

For those dealing with cancer constipation, a magnesium supplement may be a real lifesaver, as it may be possible to regulate one’s stool to a mush that can better move past obstructions in the colon.

Other Benefits of a Magnesium Supplement

If one is not getting enough magnesium in their diet, supplemental magnesium can detoxify the body, lessen skin rashes, release tension in the nervous system, calm aching limbs and back pain, relax strained muscles, relieve congestion and speed the healing process of cuts.

Conclusion, cancer constipation

Thus while cancer, especially cancers which cause bowel obstruction often cause constipation, one can try to reduce the symptoms by using a magnesium supplement. 

Note: Magnesium may interfere with your medications. Check with your doctor before to see if there is a problem with your medications.

If you have kidney disease you should only take a magnesium supplement if it has been approved by your physician.

(Return from Cancer Constipation to Causes of Constipation)

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