Your Treatment Options
What Is Radiation Proctitis?
Radiation proctitis is a potential prostate radiation side effect. It is an inflammation of the rectum that can occur as a result of damage to the rectum from radiation for prostate cancer.
Patients who have had radiation directed to areas around their rectum have an increased risk of developing radiation proctitis. The rectum is the last several inches of the large intestine and is the section of the digestive tract where stool is held before it passes out of the body through the anus. Due to its close proximity to the prostate, the rectum is most at risk for radiation beam exposure. Radiation proctitis could be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) depending on the timing relative to radiation therapy.
What are symptoms of radiation proctitis?
Radiation proctitis can develop during the course of radiation therapy or it can begin many years after treatment.
Radiation proctitis possible symptoms include:
- Rectal pain
- A feeling of fullness in your rectum
- Pain on the left side of your abdomen
- Abdominal cramps
- Continuous or frequent feeling that you need to have a bowel movement
Symptoms for radiation proctitis are similar to symptoms of other rectal conditions. If you are experiencing symptoms of proctitis, you should visit your doctor.
How does my doctor diagnose radiation proctitis?
If your doctor suspects your symptoms are due to radiation proctitis, a variety of tests may be performed to rule out other possible conditions. Tests to diagnose radiation proctitis can include a scope exam, stool test, or imaging exams.
Is there a treatment for radiation proctitis?
Mild cases of radiation proctitis may heal on their own and not require treatment. Treatment for radiation proctitis is dependent on the cause. If your proctitis is a result of prostate cancer radiation therapy, your doctor may recommend medications that control inflammation, reduce bleeding, and soften stools. It is important to talk with your doctor about which medications may be right for you.
Another form of treatment could be lifestyle changes recommended by your doctor. For example, eating foods that are high in fiber can soften stools naturally and improve symptoms.
Can I reduce my chances of radiation proctitis?
Rectal spacers have been proven to temporarily position the rectum away from the prostate during radiation therapy for prostate cancer. In creating this space, Barrigel reduces the radiation dose delivered to the rectum. Barrigel clinical study results have shown patients to have a significant reduction in long-term negative side effects, such as radiation proctitis, compared to patients who did not receive Barrigel.1
- Mariados NF, Orio PF III, Schiffman Z et al. Hyaluronic acid spacer for hypofractionated prostate radiation therapy: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Oncol. 2023: e1-e8.