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Radiation enteritis is damage to the lining of the small and large intestines caused by radiation therapy to the abdomen, rectum or pelvis. It can happen during, shortly after or a long time after radiation therapy.
Radiation enteritis is more likely to happen and symptoms can be worse when high doses of radiation are used or a large area of the intestines is treated with radiation. Chemotherapy given along with radiation therapy can also increase the risk of developing radiation enteritis.
Symptoms of radiation enteritis may include:
- bleeding or mucus from the rectum
- pain in the rectal area when having a bowel movement
- a frequent or persistent urge to have a bowel movement
- nausea and vomiting
- loss of appetite
- abdominal pain
Your doctor will try to find the cause of your symptoms. You may need to have the following tests:
- barium x-ray
- sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy
- upper endoscopy
Managing radiation enteritis
Your healthcare team may recommend medicines to treat radiation enteritis, such as:
- drugs to relieve diarrhea
- pain medicines
- corticosteroids to relieve inflammation of the rectum
You can also try the following to help manage symptoms:
- Drink plenty of water, juice or clear broth to prevent dehydration.
- Do not drink alcohol or use tobacco.
- Avoid most milk products, or try pills or drops to help digest milk products.
- Avoid high-fibre foods (nuts, seeds, fruits, popcorn, raw vegetables).
- Avoid spicy foods.
- Avoid fried, greasy or fatty foods.