Radiation enteritis is experienced by most people who have radiation therapy for cancer in the abdomen, rectum or pelvis. For most people the inflammation eases within three weeks of completing radiation treatment (acute radiation enteritis). But 5 to 15 percent of people develop ongoing problems (chronic radiation enteritis).
Chronic radiation enteritis can develop in people who had no symptoms or only mild symptoms during radiation treatment. The factors that may affect long-term radiation injury include the radiation dosage and whether you previously had abdominal surgery, vascular disease or chemotherapy. Chronic radiation enteritis is also more common in women and in older and thinner people.
Radiation enteritis can reduce the small intestine's ability to absorb nutrients, resulting in diarrhea and malnourishment. For some people the movement of food through the digestive system may be slowed, resulting in nausea, vomiting and weight loss.
Signs and symptoms of radiation enteritis include: