Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed: July 28, 2022

Adhesions are bands of scar-like tissue. They form between two surfaces causing them to stick together. In cancer patients, adhesions may be caused by surgery, radiation, or tumor spreading to nearby tissues. Those having bowel or gynecologic surgery may be at a higher risk of getting adhesions. Adhesions may happen as an acute or late effect of treatment (many months or years after treatment).


Often there are no signs of adhesions. But, adhesions may cause pain or bowel obstruction. Adhesions that cause a blockage of the intestines may need surgery. Adhesions that happen in the vagina after treatment can make physical exams or sexual acts painful. Talk with your provider about care after treatment.

When to contact your care team

  • Belly pain after surgery that does not go away or gets worse.
  • You cannot pass gas or bowel movements.
  • You have nausea and vomiting that does not go away.


Okabayashi K, Ashrafian H, Zacharakis E, Hasegawa H, Kitagawa Y, Athanasiou T, Darzi, A. Adhesions after abdominal surgery: a systematic review of the incidence, distribution and severity. Surgery Today. (2014); 44(3): 405-420.

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