Approximately 13,000 patients undergo pelvic radiotherapy each year in the United Kingdom. However, it is not clear how many of these patients develop a permanent change in bowel habit after this treatment.
In this study, physicians from England interviewed 107 patients who had completed radiotherapy for pelvic cancer at least 1 year previously.
The team determined the frequency of patients' gastrointestinal symptoms and the therapies used to deal with them. Patients were asked to score the effectiveness of the treatment measures they had taken.
Of the 107 patients, 8 had been treated for a gastrointestinal primary tumor, 34 for a urological tumor and 65 for gynecological tumors.
|GI symptoms affected quality of life in 52% of patients.|
|Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics|
The physicians found that 81% of patients described gastrointestinal problems which began after radiotherapy. The symptoms affected the quality of life in 52% of patients.
The team found that diarrhea or constipation had a significant effect on quality of life in 53 patients, fecal leakage in 19, pain in 14, and rectal bleeding in 6.
Overall, 59 patients had seen a doctor for their symptoms, and 86% had found this helpful.
A further 12 patients had seen a dietician or nurse, and 50% found this helpful.
The team also found that 14 patients had consulted an alternative practitioner, and 88% of these patients found this helpful.
The physicians determine that dietary changes were generally not helpful, but a small group of patients found avoidance of raw vegetables beneficial.
Dr Gami's team concluded,"At least 1 year after pelvic radiotherapy, gastrointestinal symptoms which have an adverse effect on the quality of life may be more common than generally reported".
"Patients found that advice from doctors and alternative practitioners was equally valuable".
"Dietary manipulation was generally unhelpful for gastrointestinal symptoms after pelvic radiotherapy, although the role of eliminating raw vegetables may benefit from further evaluation".