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Many people who have received treatment for colorectal cancer will experience changes in their bowel function. After some time these changes will go away and people will reach a “new normal” (a new stable pattern of bowel function).
Here are some of the most common changes in bowel function.
Low anterior resection syndrome is a temporary side-effect of surgery for rectal cancer. Low anterior resection syndrome is when people have many small bowel movements, that happen often and are urgent (come on suddenly).
Low anterior resection syndrome is the most common side effect of surgery for rectal cancer. This side-effect will improve over time. Most people have a return to a “new normal” pattern by 12-18 months after their surgery.
There are many other types of bowel problems that can result from cancer treatment. These include:
The following symptoms below may also be a sign of colorectal cancer recurrence. If you have any of the signs listed below please report these to your oncologist, family doctor, nurse practitioner and/or primary care team immediately.
See also: Routine Surveillance - What You Can Do »
Two of the most common kinds of bowel problems after treatment are diarrhea and constipation.
Diarrhea is loose, watery or soft bowel movements that you may have more than 3 or 4 times a day. You may have diarrhea along with stomach cramping and bloating. Diarrhea can last for as little as a few hours, or it can become a long-term problem.
Constipation is the opposite of diarrhea. Constipation is when you do not have regular bowel movements for 2 or more days when compared to your normal bowel routine. Some things can make constipation worse, such as inactivity, immobility, or limited access to bathrooms.
After you have reached your “new normal” pattern it is important that you are aware of any new changes. Make sure that you report any new changes to your oncologist, family doctor, nurse, or another member of your health care team. For more information on which symptoms to report, please read the section Watch for possible signs of recurrence.
There are many causes of bowel problems, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy to the abdominal area, and certain types of medicines for side effects.