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Radiation enteritis

  • Alternative Names

    Radiation enteropathy; Radiation-induced small bowel injury; Post-radiation enteritis


    Treatment

    Starting a low-fiber diet on the first day of radiation treatment can be helpful.

    Avoiding the following foods may help with symptoms:

    • Alcohol and tobacco
    • Almost all milk products
    • Coffee, tea, chocolate, and soda drinks with caffeine
    • Foods containing whole bran
    • Fresh and dried fruits
    • Fried, greasy, or fatty foods
    • Nuts and seeds
    • Popcorn, potato chips, and pretzels
    • Raw vegetables
    • Rich pastries and baked goods
    • Some fruit juices
    • Strong spices

    Foods and drinks that are better choices include:

    • Apple or grape juice
    • Applesauce, peeled apples, and bananas
    • Eggs, buttermilk, and yogurt
    • Fish, poultry, and meat that has been broiled or roasted
    • Mild, cooked vegetables such as asparagus tips, green or black beans, carrots, spinach, and squash
    • Potatoes that have been baked, boiled, or mashed
    • Processed cheeses, such as American cheese
    • Smooth peanut butter
    • White bread, macaroni, or noodles

    Other ways to control the symptoms of radiation enteritis include:

    • Eat foods at room temperature
    • Eat small meals more often

    Your doctor may suggest or prescribe certain medications:

    • Drugs that help decrease diarrhea, such as loperamide
    • Pain medications
    • Steroid foam that coats the lining of the rectum
    • Special enzymes to replace enzymes from the pancreas

    Drink plenty of fluids (up to 12 8-ounce glasses) every day when you have diarrhea. Some people need fluids given through a vein (intravenous fluids).

    Your health care provider may choose to stop or reduce the dosage of radiation for a short period of time.

    There often are no good treatments for chronic radiation enteritis. Your doctor may discuss surgery to either remove or go around (bypass) a section of damaged intestine.


    Support Groups


    Expectations (prognosis)

    When the abdomen receives radiation, there is always some nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In most cases, the symptoms get better 2 - 3 weeks after treatment ends.

    However, when this condition develops, symptoms may last for a long period of time. Long-term (chronic) enteritis is rarely curable.


    Complications
    • Bleeding and anemia
    • Dehydration
    • Malabsorption
    • Malnutrition
    • Weight loss

    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if you are undergoing radiation therapy or have had radiation in the past and are experiencing a lot of diarrhea or stomach pain and cramping.