CSN Login
Members Online: 15

Perforated Diverticulitis as Side Effect

Posts: 8
Joined: Aug 2011

I was being treated with Taxotere and Cytoxan for breast cancer. After my 3rd of 4 treatments I developed extreme abdominal pain and presented in the emergency room. After a CAT scan, which showed a Perforated Diverticulitis and Peritonitis, I underwent surgery to remove the damaged portion of my intestine, my appendix and resulted in a temporary colostomy. According to my oncologist, he was about 98% positive that I would not have experienced this had I not been on chemotherapy. So far I've not found any confirming information on the internet. Fortunately my colostomy is temporary and will be reversed in the next few months but it's not something I'd wish on anyone. My chemo treatments were discontinued and the plans for radiation put on hold until I am fully recovered from this problem.

Lighthouse_7's picture
Posts: 1566
Joined: Jan 2010

I'm so sorry you have to go through this.
Sending prayers and love,

Posts: 281
Joined: Jul 2011

Wow - sounds like adding fuel to the fire! Sorry you have this added
stress on your body. Welcome to our group here; you will find info,
advice when you ask and most importantly love & support.

Hugs & prayers

missrenee's picture
Posts: 2137
Joined: Apr 2010

Did you have any intestinal/bowel issues before starting chemo? I can't believe now you have to go through this along with everything else.

I'm sending you my best positive energy, good thoughts and prayers today to recover swiftly. Keep in touch.

Hugs, Renee

Posts: 8
Joined: Aug 2011

Thank you for the prayers and hugs. In answer to your question, I'd never had intestinal/bowel issues before. I've read since this happened that it's an uncommon side effect. Definitely not something I'd wish upon anyone.

Posts: 5746
Joined: Oct 2010

a good friend had very bad cases of Diverticulitis-cancer patient as well..I DONT" ever remember them conntecting the two (or side effects) but I am sure very likely...Sorry you are going through this and I hope you find some info on here to help you...


Posts: 242
Joined: Apr 2010

I was treated with Taxotere and Carboplatin. After my 3-4 treatment I too had Diverticulitis. I didn't have to have surgery but I spent about 5 days in the
hospital on IVs with antibiotics. I then had to take them for about a week. I was
lucky that mine cleared up and I haven't had a recourance since but I was told it
was a side effect of chemo. Hang in there it does get beter.


Posts: 9
Joined: Sep 2010

I just had to let you know that the same exact thing happened to my mom many years ago. She was on her 2nd chemo treatment for bc and ended up in the emergency room with same surgery you had. The dr said it was the chemo that caused the problem. She stopped chemo and took tamoxifen for awhile ... I am not sure how long but not more than a few years. She was stage 3 with lymph node involvement. The dr gave her 5 years since she didn't finish the chemo. She lived 25 years with no re-occurrence or other health issues. She died last year at 89 of heart failure. So, it just goes to show ... you never know. You have to trust you gut... no pun intended.

Posts: 8
Joined: Aug 2011

Wow! Thanks for the encouraging words. My oncologist said he was 99% certain it was a direct side effect of the chemo drugs. Heading back in next month to have the colostomy reversed. I'm done with the chemo. Will discuss radiation after I recover from this next surgery. Wish I'd know of this possibility before beginning my treatment.

Posts: 1
Joined: Oct 2011

I know exactly what you have been through as I am recovering myself from the exact same event. I was beginning to think I was the only person in the world it happened to! We are rare that's for sure. Mine happened after the 1st dose. There is plenty of info on the internet on the steroid connection and colon rupture - not so much on chemo and rupture. My docs originally said it was the steroid (dexamethazone) that caused the rupture. Now this week my Onc decided it was the Taxotere. However, the elephant in the room seems to be that I have diverticululum and from my research it appears to be the culprit in making us susceptible to a rupture during chemo. Since my fear is that I would have another rupture if I continued chemo, I elected to have a colonoscopy (my first and it was a breeze esp. with a colostomy) to see if there was more diverticulum....my doc thought she had removed it all with the surgery. Well not so....I have plenty more and right next to where the last one ruptured. The suggested solution was to move to the AC protocol and less steroid. But the AC carries other risks including inflamed colon and from what I have read, any chemo and any steroid could potentially, not absolutely, but could cause another rupture when you have diverticulum. The fear of another rupture is far greater than my fear of cancer it was that horrible of an experience (especially with a body full of chemo). 35% don't survive the surgery as the steroid masks the symptoms. So my survivor sister, I wish you well for your continued recovery. It was really tough but now on the other side of it, just know that you will feel like yourself and life will be good again.

Posts: 6
Joined: Jan 2011

I'm so sorry that the two on you had to have surgey for colon problems.

While undergoing chemo (Taxatere and Cytoxin), I had severe pain in my left lower abdomen ( I could barely walk for a couple of days). I just assumed it was caused by the diarreha/constipation cycle. I ended up in the hospital after my first chemo treatment with low white blood count. Two weeks later when I had the stomach pain I just could not bear to go back to the ER. I was on antibotics so the pain eventually went away. When I mentioned it to my onocologist she pocked around and said she didn't feel anything. I had similar pains after the other three chemo treatments (but not nearly as bad). I ran a fever after each chemo treatment so was put on an antibotic for 10 days. This is why my pain probably did not get worse.

I just went for a colonoscopy and it showed that I have Diverticula/Diverticulosis. So I probably had Diverticulitis. In hind sight, I know that it was pretty dumb not to seek treatment after what happened to the two of you. So I guess this one time God was really looking our for me. I'll mention this to the doctor when I go for my colonoscopy follow up.

I wish you both a speedy recovery. May God look after us all.


Ulrika's picture
Posts: 2
Joined: Aug 2013

I was just searching the net for other cases like my husbands.... last friday he had cytoxan to prepare for a stem cell harvest (he has mulitple mylemo, bone marrow cancer) 2 days after he had intense pain in the lower left side of his abdomen - we went to the hospital and they did a CTscan and found that he had a ruptured colon/ diverticulitis. They told us that they would operate but because of the high dose chemo and risk of infection he would probably not survive.  He has survived the operation but is still in a critical stage as he is in a severe neutrapenic state (white blood cell counts are 0.4/5) have been for 2 days.  

Our specialist doubted the dexamethasone was the cause but rather masked the pain of gut problem - but wondering if it was the cytoxan that pushed it to rupture.  My husband has always been a bit sensitive with his gut but even after testing quite a few years ago they said he was fine. 

We were told this is very rare and it happened at the worst possible time, just as the immune system was shutting down ready to "wake up" later for stem cell harvest.  I just pray my husbands blood levels rise tomorrow and he survives.  

My husband has also been introduced to the world of having a colostomy which should also be temporary. We will not go ahead with Stem cell transplant now unless he relapses and doesn't have other options.... hoping we can still get a harvest ... if he survives this next few days!




Posts: 2
Joined: May 2015

 I found this forum searching for information about diverticulitis and chemo. 

Just diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma Feb 2015, I have not yet had SCT and am in the decision making stage about whether to. I have had severe diverticulosis and some IBS for 15 years and always had it well controlled. But the constipation from my VRD- (my biologic chemo of Velcade, Revlimid and Dexamethasone) is wreaking havoc with my colon. It is extremely difficult to achieve a balance somewhere in between diarrhea and constipation with the various remedies. And I have already had one bout of diverticulitis needing treatment with IV antibiotics and requiring a hold on my Dex and Velcade that week. This is one of my big concerns about having high dose chemo of cytoxin and Melphalan for SCT.

 When I was first diagnosed, I expected that it would be the bowel infection risk that would cause the most problems. 8 years ago Doctors wanted to remove half my colon. Problem for me was that all parts of the intestine were involved, so the remaining half would just keep getting worse, so I resisted and did not have surgery.  I've really had to work at keeping my intestines successfully on track and now this. We meet with two different doctors this week and attend a seminar at another Myeloma center on Saturday. Hoping we can come to a decision we are comfortable with.



Puffin2014's picture
Posts: 325
Joined: Jun 2014

I also have severe diverticulosis that involves my entire bowel and had an attack with my first round of chemo, cytoxin and taxotere. I usually eat a high fiber diet, with a goal of 38-40 gm of fiber a day. I met with the dietician and she suggested I go on a low fiber diet to rest my bowel for 3 days after chemo, and to also start on a probiotic. I followed her instructions and had no further bowel problems But then I only had 3 more rounds of chemo to get through.

CAT48's picture
Posts: 2
Joined: Aug 2013

I am so sorry you are going through this.   And I have to say it scares me a lot.  I am on my third round of chemo including taxotere. I had a history with diverticulitis eight years ago.  So now the bad gut pain I experienced just three days ago has me worried.  Also I seem to have a mystery fever every time I get the chemo and end up on abpntibiotics.  I will discuss this all with my Dr. Before my next round.  I really want to stop taking the taxotere.   I had a horrible reaction to it in round two, and it seems to be the drug making me the sickest.   Take care.  

Ulrika's picture
Posts: 2
Joined: Aug 2013

It is really important to talk about it with your doctor although chemo is never great hey.....  Hope you can find a treatment regime that works for you and even better that you can stop taking the cancer drugs some time soon!  My husband seems much better today and his white blood cell levels have gone up slightly... Up is better than down! 

Posts: 8
Joined: Aug 2011

I've not been on this site for a while so hadn't been aware of the more recent comments of others affected in the same way I was. Thankfully, I am about 20 mos post colostomy reversal and doing well. Since I've read of the many occurrances of this type of side effect, I think patients that are placed on Taxotere should be made aware of this very serious potential side effect even if it is rare. Had I not presented to the ER when I did, I might have had a far worse outcome of untreated Peritonitis.

According to WebMD, "Left untreated, peritonitis can rapidly spread into the blood (sepsis) and to other organs, resulting in multiple organ failure and death. So if you develop any of the symptoms of peritonitis -- the most common of which is severe abdonminal pain -- it's essential to seek prompt medical evaluation and treatment that can prevent potentially fatal complications."

Anyone with questions on this should address them with their oncologist immediately. Don't hesitate to go to the ER and have any severe abdominal pain checked out. It's not worth the waiting. 

Subscribe with RSS
About Cancer Society

The content on this site is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. Use of this online service is subject to the disclaimer and the terms and conditions.

Copyright 2000-2015 © Cancer Survivors Network