After any type of surgery in the abdomen, bands of tissue (called adhesions) may form between abdominal tissues and organs. Normally, tissues and organs are slippery and move easily as the body moves. But, if adhesions form they can make tissues and organs stick together.

Most adhesions don’t cause problems. But sometimes they can cause pain in the abdomen. Rarely, they can cause a part of the bowel to twist or kink, pulling it out of place so that it becomes blocked. This can cause symptoms such as:

  • severe abdominal pain or cramping
  • sickness (vomiting)
  • bloating
  • loud gurgling sounds from the bowel
  • tummy (abdominal) swelling
  • inability to pass wind
  • constipation.

If you have severe pain you should contact a doctor straight away, as this could be a sign of a blocked bowel. You may need tests such as x-rays or scans to check.

Often the bowel is only partly blocked and gets better (unkinks) after being rested for a time. This may mean not eating for a day or so and having fluids through a drip into a vein, or it may involve taking a liquid or low-residue diet.

A low-residue diet is high in protein, low in fibre, and more easily broken down into smaller particles by the digestive system. If the bowel is completely blocked, you may need an urgent operation to relieve it.

Most people don’t need treatment for abdominal adhesions as they usually don’t cause problems. Surgery is the only way to break adhesions that cause pain or bowel blockage. However, surgery may cause more adhesions to form, so it’s avoided where possible.

Back to Other side effects


Ascites is a build-up of fluid in the lining of the abdomen. It can be caused by several types of cancer.

Avoiding infection

Cancer and its treatments can weaken the immune system. It’s important to try and avoid infection if your immunity is reduced.

Difficulty sleeping

If you are having difficulty sleeping, there are things you can do to help.

Ulcerating cancer wounds

Ulcerating cancer wounds are rare. They develop when cancer breaks through the skin and creates a wound.

Chemo brain

Chemo brain describes changes in memory, concentration and the ability to think clearly. These changes can sometimes happen during or after cancer treatment.

Nausea and vomiting

Cancer and its treatment can make you feel sick (nauseous) or be sick (vomit). There are drugs that can help control this.

Peripheral neuropathy

Cancer or its treatment can damage the nerves that are outside the brain and spinal cord. This is called peripheral neuropathy.

Pleural effusion

A pleural effusion is a build-up of fluid in the lining of the lungs. It can be a symptom of cancer.