[Constipation and cancer: Current strategies]

Bull Cancer. 2016 Sep;103(9):794-804. doi: 10.1016/j.bulcan.2016.05.010. Epub 2016 Jun 21.
[Article in French]


Digestive disorders, in particular constipation, are symptoms very often reported by cancer patients as having a major impact on their quality of life. An accurate diagnosis of bowel delayed transit and defecation disorders is required to best adapt therapeutic management. Constipation associated with cancer may be related to several causes, which can be placed in three nosological categories that sometimes overlap: chronic constipation prior to cancer and having its own evolution; constipation related to the cancer condition, in particular the occlusive syndrome, and constipation induced by cancer therapies. The stricter application of diet and lifestyle measures is often necessary and sometimes sufficient. Laxative drug treatments come under various galenic forms and administration routes and must be selected according to the clinical features of constipation. Surgical management can be indicated in case of ileus or pelvic static disorders. In the case of refractory constipation induced by opioids and within the framework of palliative care to treat an advanced pathology, a peripheral morphinic antagonist can offer fast symptom relief. A way forward to improve the patients' quality of life could be to identify the contributing factors (in particular, genetic factors) to determine which patients are the more at risk and anticipate their management.

Keywords: Cancer; Constipation; Laxatif; Laxative; Opioid; Opioïde; Quality of life; Qualité de vie; Soins de support; Supportive care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects
  • Chronic Disease
  • Colostomy
  • Constipation / classification
  • Constipation / etiology*
  • Constipation / therapy
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Factors


  • Analgesics, Opioid