Evidence-based nursing care for cancer patients with opioid-induced constipation

Chien Tai Yu, Nai-Ying Ko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)


About one-third of cancer patients who receive opioid drugs to control pain experience constipation. While clinical healthcare personnel often deal with constipation problems by adopting professional suggestions, effective evidence-based solutions remain lacking. Thus, cancer patient constipation problems are often not effectively solved. In this article, 2009 American National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines for palliative care in cancer were modified as the basis of evidence-based nursing research. Constipation assessments should first be conducted before the initiation of opioid drug treatment to relieve pain in cancer patients. Before the patient develops opioid-induced constipation, preventive action should be conducted, such as using drug combinations (e.g., sennoside and docusate). Non-pharmaceutical interventions include exercising, maintaining a high-fiber diet, conducting abdominal massage and having correct bowel habits. If the patient is already experiencing constipation, bisacodyl (ducolax) may be used. However, if no improvement is observed, pharmaceutical treatments (e.g., a lactulose-sennoside combination) may be administered. If stool impaction occurs during the testing process, digital and glycerine should be implemented to remove stool impaction. Eliminating stool impaction enhances medication effectiveness. Nurses should advise doctors regarding preventive measures related to commencing treatment with opioid drugs. Further, nurses must evaluate degree of constipation and educate patients on following non-pharmaceutical strategies to alleviate constipation to improve quality of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-105
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Nursing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Aug 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nursing(all)

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