Radiation enteritis is a condition wherein the intestines get inflamed after you’ve had radiation therapy for cancer. The condition is very common in people who receive radiation therapy for cancer in the abdomen and / or pelvis.
By and large, radiation enteritis is transitory and tends to subside in a few weeks or a couple of months after the treatment finishes. Occasionally, however, the symptoms may persist even after the treatment ends or in some people it may develop months after the treatment.
Signs & Symptoms Of Radiation Enteritis
The symptoms of radiation enteritis tend to vary, depending upon which segment of the intestine receives radiation therapy. Symptoms may come on during, shortly after or sometimes long after the treatment.
Common signs and symptoms of radiation therapy include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Bleeding or mucus from the rectum.
- An urge to pass stool most or all of the time.
- Pain in the rectum, especially during bowel movement.
- Pain in the abdomen
- Bloody diarrhea
- Greasy or fatty stools
- Loss of weight
Causes Of Radiation Enteritis
Radiation therapy to manage cancer makes use of high powered X rays, particles, or radio-active seeds to annihilate the malignant cells.
Those who have received radiation therapy to the abdomen and / or pelvis are at risk. These may include people who have been diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas, uterus, cervix, prostate, colon or rectum.
Treatment And Management Of Radiation Enteritis
- Your doctor will give you anti-diarrhea medications to manage the lose motions, diarrhea and irritable bowel movement.
- Pain killers will be prescribed to allay the pain of inflammation.
- You may need steroid foam that coats the lining of the rectum.
- Inflammation in the intestine decreases the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from the foods you eat, hence you need nutritional support. Nutritional support in the form of tube feeding or infusions of nutrients into a vein, have to be given to ensure that you get the vital nutrients and the adequate amount of energy that you require.
- Inflammation caused by radiation may result in a bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. Antibiotics need to be administered to control bacterial overgrowth.
- You need to steer clear of all these – milk and milk products, alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee, aerated beverages, foods containing whole bran, fatty and greasy foods, fresh and dry fruits, raw vegetables, and strong spices.
- Make sure that you include these foods in your menu – apple and grape juice, bananas, eggs, boiled or roasted fish, meat and poultry, buttermilk, and yogurt, mildly cooked vegetables, peanut butter.
- Also, make sure that you always eat foods at room temperature; not too hot or not too cold.
- Eat small frequent meals trough the day.
- Drink plenty of fluids, at least 2 liters per day. Some people will need fluids given via IV, in case of excessive diarrhea.
- In rare cases, your health care provider may advise surgery to get rid of the affected intestine or to make a way for the waste to circumvent that segment. Surgical intervention is done when other alternatives have been ineffective, given that, surgery carries a risk of complications.