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Radiation is used in the treatment of cancer and comes with risks. Radiation enteritis is one of these risks. This condition is caused by the inflammation of your small and/or large intestine from radiation treatments in your stomach, sexual organs, or rectum.
Radiation enteritis can cause the loss of both intestinal cells and tissue.
There are two types of radiation enteritis: acute and chronic. Acute enteritis develops while you are getting radiation treatments. The condition will last until about eight weeks after your last radiation treatment. Chronic enteritis can cause symptoms that last for months to years after you complete your radiation treatment.
Symptoms of enteritis include:
The following factors can affect your chances of developing radiation enteritis:
Your doctor will mainly ask you questions about your bowel movements if they suspect that you have enteritis. They will want to know when your diarrhea started, how long it lasted, what the diarrhea looks like, whether there was any blood in the stool, and how often you have to use the bathroom. Your doctor will also ask about your current diet and medications you are taking.
In addition to a physical exam, some of the following diagnostic tests may be recommended:
Some common treatments for enteritis include:
Doctors will often suggest that people affected by radiation enteritis make changes in their diet. These changes are designed to lessen aggravation to the digestive system.
The following foods should be on your "do not eat" list:
Including the following foods in your diet will help:
Work with your doctor to come up with a diet plan that will help you manage your symptoms.
Most people are able to treat enteritis with dietary changes alone. However, if there is severe damage to your intestines, you may need intestinal bypass surgery. This is a surgical procedure where the damaged parts of your intestine are removed and the healthy parts are connected. This is relatively rare.
When you go through radiation treatment, your doctor will take steps to reduce the chances of enteritis. These prevention methods may include:
Written by: Shannon Johnson
Medically reviewed on: Feb 11, 2016: University of Illinois-Chicago, College of Medicine
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