Radiation Colitis

Richard Whittington, MD
Last Modified: September 29, 2002

Question:

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

What is radiation colitis?

Answer:

Richard Whittington, MD, Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, responds:

Radiation Colitis is a manifestation of inflammation and damage to the colon and it is caused by radiation. It presents with spasm, cramping pain, diarrhea, mucous and blood in the bowel movements. It usually resolves on its own, but may leave some scarring that can infrequently cause later ulcers in the large intestine. In its worst form it can cause blockages of the intestine or fistulae. It is usually treated conservatively with antispasmodics and fiber. The acute phase may take 6 months to resolve and may wax and wane as it resolves.

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