Diarrhea, Constipation, and Obstruction in Cancer Management

  • Lowell B. Anthony


Gastrointestinal symptoms encountered by cancer patients include those not only induced by the primary malignancy but also by its treatment. These symptoms range from being nonspecific and annoying to life-threatening and a harbinger for imminent death. Symptoms from the primary tumor may be resolved with surgery, but subsequent adhesions may produce intermittent discomfort. Opiates may relieve somatic pain but induce severe pain and distress from constipation and bowel obstruction. When symptoms impact one’s quality of life, major efforts, and support may be required to prevent a decreased quantity of life. The clinical judgment and experience of the practitioner impacts not only which intervention is chosen but also the timing of the specific therapeutic modality. For patients with gastrointestinal symptoms, the management of iatrogenic diarrhea, constipation, and obstructive symptoms is central to the patient’s well-being. As the toxicities from conventional cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agents are predictable and manageable, combining “targeted agents” presents new challenges and opportunities in cancer care. The era of “molecular medicines” is here, and going forward with dose escalations and combinations is the immediate future in treating cancer. Success will depend upon not only identifying adverse effects from these anticancer agents but also in the development of supportive care pathways that controls or improves symptom burden.


Good Supportive Care Vinca Alkaloid Malignant Bowel Obstruction Metastatic Colorectal Cancer Patient Hyoscine Butylbromide 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LSUHSC New Orleans, Professor of Medicine, Department of MedicineOchsner Kenner Medical CenterKennerUSA

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