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Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment of radiation proctitis

Lawrence S Friedman, MD
Section Editor
Christopher G Willett, MD
Deputy Editor
Shilpa Grover, MD, MPH


Radiation injury to the lower intestine may result following treatment of cancers of the rectum, anus, cervix, uterus, prostate, urinary bladder, and testes. The rectum and sigmoid colon are most often affected.

This topic will review the clinical features, diagnosis, and treatment of radiation proctitis. The adverse effects of radiation therapy on the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, anus, and liver are discussed separately. (See "Overview of gastrointestinal toxicity of radiation therapy" and "Diagnosis and management of chronic radiation enteritis".)


Radiation proctopathy is defined as epithelial damage to the rectum due to radiation that is associated with minimal or no inflammation. The term radiation proctitis is somewhat misleading, since it inaccurately implies a chronic inflammatory condition of the rectum. However, because radiation proctitis continues to be widely used, it will be used in this topic review.

Based on the timing of symptoms in relation to radiation therapy, radiation proctitis can be divided into the following:

Acute radiation proctitis occurs during or within six weeks of radiation therapy.


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Sep 7, 2016.
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