Types of bowel problems in people with cancer

The two most common bowel problems for people with cancer are diarrhoea and constipation. But people with cancer might also have problems with bowel blockages, passing wind or having a colostomy or ileostomy.

It is understandable that bowel problems can be distressing, especially when they affect your daily life. Do ask your doctor or nurse for advice, they may be able to recommend treatment to help. 


Get information on the symptoms, causes and treatment of diarrhoea.


Constipation means having difficulty opening your bowels. Find out about this common problem for people with cancer. 

Chronic constipation

Chronic constipation is also known as faecal impaction. It happens if you are regularly constipated for long periods of time.

A blocked bowel (bowel obstruction)

A bowel obstruction means there is a blockage in the bowel. It is a serious complication, which is much more common with advanced cancer. 

Passing wind

On average people pass wind about 15 to 25 times a day. But sometimes illness, what you eat, and stress can increase the amount of wind you pass.

Having a colostomy or ileostomy

A colostomy is an opening of the large bowel onto the surface of the tummy (abdomen). You wear a bag over the opening, to collect the poo.

Last reviewed: 
18 Jul 2019
Coronavirus and cancer

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