What may help

Talk to your Doctor

Your doctors and nurses should be able to suggest appropriate medications. If you are making an appointment with your doctor, ask for a long consultation so you can explain the problem without feeling rushed. Movicol, for instance, may be prescribed for constipation if you are taking opioid pain medications (eg. codeine or morphine).

Write down what you want to tell you doctor:

  • What is your usual bowel movement pattern?
  • What is your current bowel problem? How often does it occur? Have you experienced any bowel problems before? You may find it useful to note down the date and time you have had bowel problems.
  • When did constipation, diarrhoea, or urinary incontinence start? Did you identify a provoking factor (eg. types of food or drinks)?
  • What have you tried to relieve constipation, diarrhoea, or urinary incontinence?
  • The amount and type of fluid consumed and the type of diet generally consumed.

You may also like to write down a few questions to ask your health professionals such as:

  • What is causing these bowel problems?
  • When is it likely to get better or worse?
  • What can be done for bowel problems?

If you are prescribed medicine to help you with your bowel problems ask:

  • How long will it take to work?
  • How often should I take it?
  • What should I do if I continue to experience bowel problems?
  • Are there other options if the medication doesn’t work?
  • What are the possible side-effects of the medication?
  • How can the side-effects be managed?
  • Who will I keep seeing about my bowel problems?

If diarrhoea is the problem, your doctor may be able to prescribe anti-spasmodic medications.

Some medications can also help to tighten, or in some cases relax, muscles around the bladder to help counter incontinence. In worse cases, a temporary catheter may be preferable to living with the unease of an unreliable bladder.


  • Mix Movicol in fruit juice to improve taste. Sip it over an hour if you have difficulty swallowing fluids.
  • When anti-nausea drugs cause constipation after chemotherapy try 20 drops of Duralax with a cup of tea on the morning of treatment and the day after.


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Life, Hope & Reality was developed and written by Afaf Girgis, Claire Johnson, and Sylvie Lambert with funding from the NHMRC and Cancer Council NSW.

Last updated 30 August 2015