Overview

Radiation enteritis is inflammation of the intestines that occurs after radiation therapy.

Radiation enteritis causes diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps in people receiving radiation aimed at the abdomen, pelvis or rectum. Radiation enteritis is most common in people receiving radiation therapy for cancer in the abdomen and pelvic areas.

For most people, radiation enteritis is temporary and the inflammation usually subsides several weeks after treatment ends. But for some, radiation enteritis may continue long after treatment ends or may develop months or years after treatment.

Chronic radiation enteritis can cause complications such as anemia, diarrhea and partial bowel obstruction.

Treatment typically focuses on relieving signs and symptoms until the inflammation heals. In severe cases, tube feeding or surgery to remove sections of the intestine may be necessary.

Symptoms

Radiation enteritis symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and belly cramps. This condition causes irritation of the intestines after radiation therapy for cancer. Symptoms usually go away several weeks after treatment ends. But sometimes they last longer. Radiation enteritis that goes on for longer can cause anemia and partial bowel obstruction.

Risk factors

The risk of radiation enteritis is higher in people undergoing radiation treatments for cancers in the belly and the pelvis. This condition causes irritation of the intestines after radiation therapy for cancer.

Radiation enteritis care at Mayo Clinic

Dec. 07, 2018
References
  1. Yeo CJ, et al., eds. Radiation enteritis. In: Shackelford's Surgery of the Alimentary Tract. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2013. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 1, 2017.
  2. Roberts I. Diagnosis and management of chronic radiation enteritis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 1, 2017.
  3. Gastrointestinal complications (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/constipation/GI-complications-hp-pdq. Accessed Feb. 1, 2017.
  4. Riggin EA. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 6, 2016.