This is an update of the review published in Issue 3, 1999. Gastrointestinal and ovarian cancers are common cancers. The incidence of associated malignant bowel obstruction in patients with advanced cancers of these types is not known, and the best management of these patients is controversial. Inappropriate management may result in uncontrolled (faeculant) vomiting, pain and distress. Management of the symptoms can include palliative surgery, nasogastric tube suction together with intravenous fluids, or pharmacological means, such as corticosteroids. There is uncertainty regarding both the efficacy and possible harmful effects of corticosteroids, and also the most effective type, dose/dosing regime, route and period of administration.