Chronic radiation enteritis is an increasing problem, as more patients receive radiotherapy as part of their cancer therapy and as the long-term survival of these patients improves. This review addresses the causes, investigation, treatment and prevention of this disease. A review of published studies was carried out using a variety of search terms, including radiation enteritis, investigation, treatment and prevention. Chronic radiation enteritis has been reported in up to 20% of patients receiving pelvic radiotherapy, although this may underestimate its true prevalence, as not all patients with gastrointestinal symptoms after radiotherapy will seek medical attention. Predisposing factors to chronic radiation enteritis include a low body mass index, previous abdominal surgery and the presence of co-morbid conditions; the radiation dose, fractionation and technique, as well as the concomitant use of chemotherapy, may also play a role. Clinical features of chronic radiation enteritis are multiple as the disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Moreover, symptom aetiology within any one patient may be multifactorial and therefore it is important to adopt a structured approach when planning investigations. The evidence base for current therapies is limited, but nutrition, anti-diarrhoeals, anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, probiotics, pentoxifylline, tocopherol, cholestyramine, hyperbaric oxygen, endoscopic and surgical therapies have all received attention. Given the significant morbidity and mortality associated with chronic radiation enteritis, current available preventative strategies are reviewed, including tissue-sparing radiotherapy techniques. In conclusion, the evidence base for therapeutic and preventative strategies in treating chronic radiation enteritis is limited, but adopting a structured approach to investigating gastrointestinal symptoms after radiotherapy should allow better targeting of current therapies. Closer collaboration between oncologists and gastroenterologists will facilitate a more structured approach, not only in managing individual patients, but also in establishing clinical and research networks for this expanding disease, in order to improve the evidence base for its management.
Theis, Sripadam, Ramani, Lal, , , , , (2010). Chronic radiation enteritis. Clinical oncology (Royal College of Radiologists (Great Britain)), 2010 Feb;22(1):70-83. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19897345