Diarrhea is one of the common side-effects of cancer treatment. Sometimes, Diarrhea itself can be a product of cancer. Learning Diarrhea signs and symptoms which are routine can help in detecting the magnitude of its severity. Accordingly, it would help you understand when to get in touch with your doctor.
Diarrhea can be a cause of inconvenience for cancer patients, but in some cases, it could be a sign of something more critical health issues.
Causes of diarrhea in cancer patients
Falling sick with diarrhea now and then isn’t unusual. The things that can ordinarily cause diarrhea can affect cancer patients too. But, there are additional causes of it in cancer patients, such as:
- Cancer treatment: Cancer treatment methods, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and immunotherapy, can cause diarrhea.
- Infections: Patients undergoing Cancer treatment are more susceptible to catching hold of diseases, which can result in diarrhea. Antibiotics consumed to treat the infection-causing germ can prolong diarrhea.
- Cancer: Certain types of cancer are known to cause diarrhea, such as neuroendocrine tumors, colon cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
Whatever causes it determines its duration and severity. You must get in touch with your doctor or nurse and talk to them in detail about your situation.
When to get in touch with your doctor?
Diarrhea can make you miserable with constant bathroom visits. Further, it can lead to dehydration. For some people, the skin in the anal area can get raw and eventually break down. Hence, it is vital to treat diarrhea right away.
Understanding the symptoms for diarrhea :
Get in touch with your doctor immediately if you notice one or more of these symptoms:
- Six or more bathroom visits a day for more than two days
- Blood in your anus or stool
- Weight loss resulting from it
- Fever of 38 degrees C or higher
- Inability to keep bowel movements in check
- Abdominal cramping and diarrhea lasting for more than a day
- Diarrhea with dizziness
If diarrhea and abdominal cramping start to interrupt your daily activities and stop you from going to places without a toilet nearby, then contact your doctor. Also, if you are taking chemotherapy in pill form, which is causing it, then ask your doctor whether it’s safe for you to continue the medication.
Please note that you must mention every sign and symptom to your doctor.
How to treat diarrhea?
Diarrhea is treated depending on its severity. Changing your diet can stop mild diarrhea, but severe Diarrhea may require medication. Sometimes, doctors prescribe intravenous fluids to replace the lost fluid. If this disease is diagnosed as one of the cancer treatment side effects, then the doctor might change the course of treatment.
In any case, you can try to stop diarrhea from getting worse by altering what you eat and drink. Take one of the following actions:
- Add more probiotics: Yogurt and dietary supplements have probiotics in generous amounts. Probiotics are bacteria, beneficial in nature, which can help restore healthy digestion. Two examples of probiotics would be Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. If you have undergone a bone marrow transplant before, then you must consult with your doctor regarding the intake of probiotics.
- Make sure you drink clear liquids: Once you catch diarrhea, it’s better to resort to clear liquids such as clear broth, apple juice, and ice pops. Sports drinks, gelatin, and clear juices like peach, apricot, cranberry juice, and pear nectar are better than water because they have got sugar and salt in them. Salted lime water and salted buttermilk can replace fluid-electrolyte losses. Avoid apple juice as it can induce from this disease. Stay off from orange, pineapple, and tomato juices as they are too acidic. Forbid yourself from taking grapefruit juice as it can interfere with chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and other medications.
- Food items high in soluble fiber, such as rice kanji, banana, apple, oranges, and sweet lime, can help in holding the stools back.
- Drink plenty of water to stay rehydrated and to prevent severe dehydration. To treat diarrhea, you must take in 8-12 cups of water a day.
- Bland food items with low fiber content such as bananas, poached or boiled eggs, applesauce, toast, and rice can help reduce bathroom visits. Make sure that you stop the diet after 72 hours as it doesn’t guarantee high nutrition.
- Stay off from food that irritates your digestive tract: These include spicy and fried foods, apart from alcohol, dairy products, high-fat diet, and beverages with caffeine. These can give you gas troubles.
- Don’t forget to have your meals on time, and five to six small meals a day would suffice.
Once you start feeling better, you can go back to your regular diet.
Tend to your skin well:
After each bowel movement, wash with warm water and gently clean the anal area with baby wipes or bathroom wipes. Water-repellent ointments containing petroleum jelly can also help reduce skin irritation. Apply once after drying the skin in the anal area.
Can medications bring relief?
If diet modifications don’t relieve you of diarrhea, then your doctor might medicate you. Stay away from over-the-counter medicines if you are undergoing chemotherapy because this misstep can cause dangerous side-effects. Your doctor might prescribe you opioids or ant secretory agents, but in cases of severity, hospitalization might be suggested to give intravenous nutrition.