Radiation enteritis is a complication of radiation therapy to the
abdomen or pelvis. Radiation therapy is sometimes used to treat certain diseases, especially cancers. In addition to killing cancer deep in the body, it damages the healthy tissue around it, like the bowels. The damage may occur at the
time of treatment or take many years to develop.
What is going on in the body?
Radiation therapy is a form of energy carefully directed at cancerous tissue.
This energy is powerful enough to kill cancer cells deep in the body. All
tissues overlying the cancer also are affected. For instance, radiation
therapy used to treat colon cancer, ovarian cancer, or prostate cancer often severely damages healthy tissue, like the bowels.
The bowels, also called the intestines, are very sensitive to radiation
therapy. As a result, the blood supply to the bowels can become impaired.
With a poor blood supply, the affected bowel will be weakened. In fact, that part of the bowel may die.
Scarring of the bowel sometimes happens. When this occurs, the bowel will not work properly. Intestinal obstructions may form as a result of the scar tissue.
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
Radiation enteritis is caused by radiation treatment to the abdomen and pelvis.