Frequent bowel movements that are soft, loose or watery are called diarrhea. Some chemotherapy drugs cause diarrhea. Infections, certain surgical procedures, and radiation to the pelvic area can also cause diarrhea. If diarrhea is a side effect of your treatment, your health care team will discuss how you can work together to manage it.
Don’t be embarrassed to talk to your doctor or nurse about this side effect. Diarrhea can decrease your quality of life and make you feel socially isolated. If severe, it may result in dehydration and treatment delays.
Tips to Manage Diarrhea
- Drink 8 to 12 glasses of fluid each day. Fluids should be at room temperature and can be water, ginger ale without fizz, or sport drinks. Clear broth is another option for increasing your fluid intake.
- Avoid very hot or very cold drinks and alcoholic beverages.
- Eat 5 or 6 small meals a day instead of 3 large meals.
- Avoid spicy or fatty foods, and milk products.
- Eat low fiber foods, like the BRAT diet. BRAT stands for bananas, white rice, applesauce and toast.
- Wipe gently after each bowel movement; baby wipes may be more comfortable than toilet paper.
- Wash your hands well.
Let your doctor or nurse know if your diarrhea lasts for more than 24 hours, you have abdominal pain or cramping, or if your rectal area becomes sore or bleeds.
If your doctor orders medication for your diarrhea, be sure you understand how to take the medicine. Never take any medicines for diarrhea without first speaking to your health care team.