Cancer and cancer treatment may cause changes in the usual patterns of elimination.1 2 Some treatments cause constipation or loose stool. Urinary tract infections may occur as the result of immune system suppression. In some cases, surgical procedures related to cancer treatment result in the creation of new outlets for stool and urine in the form of a colostomy, ileostomy, ileal conduit or other urinary diversions. All of these conditions have the potential to cause physical and psychological distress and may impose restrictions or challenges in your work life.3
Changes in bowel and bladder function may provoke concerns about elimination. A work environment that provides easy and regular access to a private bathroom is desirable. The care of ostomies requires some education and practice so that you feel comfortable in preventing and troubleshooting any problems that might occur.
What you can do
Understand the factors that contribute to irregularities in bowel and bladder function so that these can be prevented or managed quickly. Monitor for signs of problems such as infections and speak to your healthcare team for advice.
Some other tips include:
- Aim for regular elimination habits, especially if you are on medications that may cause constipation or diarrhea. Diet and fluid intake may help this.
- Know the warning signs that indicate you should seek medical attention.
- If you have a surgical opening for the passage of urine or stool, speak to your healthcare team or to an ostomy care specialist for advice on managing your ostomy and preventing problems. For more information, see the Ostomy Canada Society website.
- Relocate your workstation closer to the washroom.
- Ask for access to a private washroom that has a sink and toilet together.
- Request a private place to store wet wipes, extra ostomy supplies and a change of clothing.
- Identify tasks that would be problematic to interrupt with an emergency bathroom visit.
- Explore if there is a way to modify these tasks to allow for unforeseen interruptions.