Diarrhea is a condition where you have loose, watery stools more than 3 times in 1 day. You may also have cramps, bloating, and nausea, and feel like you urgently need to have a bowel movement. Diarrhea happens when the water in your intestine is not being absorbed back into your body.
Several breast cancer treatments can cause diarrhea:
- Abraxane (chemical name: albumin-bound or nab-paclitaxel)
- Cytoxan (chemical name: cyclophosphamide)
- daunorubicin (brand names: Cerubidine, DaunoXome)
- Ellence (chemical name: epirubicin)
- fluorouracil (also called 5-fluorouracil or 5-FU; brand name: Adrucil)
- Gemzar (chemical name: gemcitabine)
- Ixempra (chemical name: ixabepilone)
- methotrexate (brand names: Amethopterin, Mexate, Folex)
- mitoxantrone (brand name: Novantrone)
- Navelbine (chemical name: vinorelbine)
- Taxol (chemical name: paclitaxel)
- vincristine (brand names: Oncovin, Vincasar PES, Vincrex)
- Xeloda (chemical name: capecitabine)
- Faslodex (chemical name: fulvestrant), a hormonal therapy
- targeted therapy:
- Afinitor (chemical name: everolimus)
- Avastin (chemical name: bevacizumab)
- Ibrance (chemical name: palbociclib)
- Kisqali (chemical name: ribociclib, formerly called LEE011)
- Lynparza (chemical name: olaparib)
- Nerlynx (chemical name: neratinib)
- Perjeta (chemical name: pertuzumab)
- Tykerb (chemical name: lapatinib)
- Verzenio (chemical name: abemaciclib)
Bisphosphonates, medicines taken by some women to strengthen their bones during and after breast cancer treatment, also can cause diarrhea. The most common bisphosphonates are:
- Actonel (chemical name: risedronate)
- Aredia (chemical name: pamidronate disodium)
- Bonefos (chemical name: clodronate)
- Boniva (chemical name: ibandronate)
- Fosamax (chemical name: alendronate sodium)
- Zometa (chemical name: zoledronic acid)
Diarrhea is also a common side effect of many pain medicines, including ibuprofen and morphine.
If you have diarrhea that lasts for more than 48 hours, call your doctor right away. Medicines are available to help.
When and how to eat if you have diarrhea:
- Try a clear liquid diet — water, weak herbal tea, apple juice, clear broth, frozen pops, or plain gelatin — as soon as diarrhea starts or you feel it's going to start. Clear liquids keep the bowels from working too hard and help prevent irritation.
- Eat small, frequent meals. Your body may find smaller amounts easier to digest.
- After 2 days of diarrhea, start a liquid diet and add low-fiber foods as you can tolerate them. This will help lessen bowel irritation and will give you some nutrients.
- Drink at least a cup of liquid after each bout of diarrhea so you don't become dehydrated.
- Eat foods that are high in pectin, such as applesauce, bananas, and yogurt. Pectin, a water-soluble fiber, helps reduce diarrhea.
- Eat foods that have a lot of potassium, such as fruit juices, sports drinks, potatoes without the skin, and bananas. Potassium is often lost through diarrhea.
- Eat foods that are high in sodium, such as soups, broths, sports drinks, crackers, and pretzels. Salt helps you retain water so you don't become dehydrated.
- Get enough protein. Try lean baked beef, pork, turkey, or chicken or well-cooked eggs or tofu. This can help you avoid fatigue.
- If you like certain fruits and vegetables, eat them cooked, not raw. Some raw fruits and vegetables can make diarrhea worse. Try soups made with cooked asparagus tips, beets, carrots, peeled zucchini, mushrooms, or celery; tomato puree; or a baked potato without the skin.
- Avoid caffeinated, alcoholic, or carbonated beverages and very hot or cold foods. They may irritate your digestive tract.
- Avoid using tobacco products. They may irritate your digestive tract.
- Avoid high-fat, fried, greasy, and rich foods. They can promote diarrhea.
- Avoid foods that cause gas, such as chewing gum and carbonated beverages. They can irritate your digestive tract.
- Limit milk and milk products. They may be hard to digest and promote diarrhea.
- Avoid nuts, raw fruits and vegetables, whole-grain breads, and bran products. They can be irritating to your digestive tract.
Other tips to ease diarrhea:
- Clean your anal area with a mild soap after each bowel movement, rinse well with warm water, and pat dry.
- Apply a water-repellent ointment, such as petroleum jelly, to the anal area.
- Sitting in a tub of warm water or a sitz bath may help reduce any discomfort you may have.
Diarrhea -- Breast Cancer Treatment Side Effects
Listen to the podcast to hear Dr. Brian Wojciechowski explain breast cancer treatments that may cause diarrhea, why it's always important to tell your doctor if you're experiencing diarrhea, and treatments and dietary changes to help you manage it.