Objective Up to 90% of patients treated for pelvic cancers experience chronic gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms. This study characterises this patient cohort at a single centre, addressing a paucity of publications reporting ‘real-world’ experiences.
Method Outpatient referrals, from oncology to the gastroenterology and nutrition services, at a tertiary London hospital from 2006 to 2016, were retrospectively identified. Patient characteristics, reported symptoms, investigations, diagnoses, response to therapeutics and follow-up were recorded.
Results Of 269 patients referred, 81% were within the latter 5 years. A total of 260 patients had diagnoses of pelvic cancers (prostatic (52%), cervical (19%) and endometrial (19%)). Among 247 treated with radiotherapy, the median time from radiotherapy to symptom onset was 8 months. Common symptoms were rectal bleeding (51%), diarrhoea (32%), faecal urgency (19%) and pain (19%). Patients underwent a median of three investigations including lower GI endoscopy (86%), thyroid function tests (33%) and glucose hydrogen breath test (30%). Diagnoses included radiation proctopathy (39%), colonic polyps (16%), pelvic floor dysfunction (12%), bile acid malabsorption (BAM) (8%), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) (8%), vitamin D deficiency (7%) and iron deficiency (7%). Among 164 discharged patients, the time to discharge was 7 months, after a median of two appointments.
Conclusions This unique patient group reports a complex mix of symptoms and requires specialist review and consideration of often uninvestigated diagnoses (pelvic dysfunction, BAM, SIBO and nutritional deficiencies). Such patients are often overlooked, compared with those suffering many other chronic GI disorders. Further reports from non-dedicated centres treating patients with pelvic radiation disease will aid in understanding of secondary GI diagnoses and variation in practice.
- radiation enteritis
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