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Cancer-Related Constipation

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Constipation…not the most glamorous topic, but it is downright unpleasant to have and can become severe enough to greatly impact quality of life. It is not a problem unique to patients with cancer, but millions of people suffer from chronic constipation in the U.S.

As bowel habits vary from individual to individual, there has been a consensus definition for functional constipation (referred to as the Rome III criteria, after a large conference on constipation). It includes not only frequency but also the quality and difficulty of bowel movements. Functional constipation is defined as having two or more of the following features 25% or more of the time:

  • straining
  • hard stools
  • incomplete evacuation
  • sensation of blockage
  • use of manual maneuvers to evacuate the stool
  • fewer than 3 bowel movements per week

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