Radiation Proctitis

Inflammation of the rectum is called proctitis. Radiation proctitis or inflammation of the rectum due to radiation treatment of a nearby organ or area occurs in as many 75% of the patients being treated. 


In males, this is seen in association with prostate cancer therapy either by external beam radiation or by implantation of radioactive seeds within the prostate. It can occur during the treatment and last several months or occur several years after treatment. In women, this is usually seen after radiation therapy of ovarian cancer.


  • Rectal bleeding.
  • Fullness in the rectum and sensation of continuous feeling of needing to have a bowel movement, also described as sensation of  incomplete evacuation.
  • Diarrhea and excessive mucus discharge from the rectum.
  • Rectal pain and left sided abdominal pain.
  • Pain with bowel movements.


  • Mild cases may improve on their own.
  • Fiber supplements and laxatives may be necessary to soften stools as hard stools can worsen symptoms.
  • Rectal bleeding after radiation treatment is usually due to new growth of superficial fragile blood vessels in the lining which break easily and bleed. Sigmoidoscopy with cautery of the superficial blood vessels done over a few sessions improves rectal bleeding.
  • Treatment of other symptoms usually involves prescription of anti-inflammatory medications which can be given in pill, suppository or enema form.


Radiation proctitis is a condition that occurs when the lining of the rectum becomes inflamed or damaged due to exposure to radiation therapy. It is a common side effect of radiation treatment for cancer, particularly cancers of the pelvic area such as prostate or cervical cancer.

Symptoms of radiation proctitis can include rectal bleeding, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and a feeling of incomplete bowel evacuation. Some people may also experience rectal pain or discomfort during bowel movements.

Radiation proctitis is usually diagnosed based on the patient’s symptoms and a physical examination. Further testing, such as a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis and assess the extent of the damage to the rectum.

Treatment for radiation proctitis will depend on the severity of the condition and the specific symptoms the patient is experiencing. Options may include sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy with cautery for bleeding/anemia and medications to reduce inflammation or control diarrhea.

It is not always possible to completely prevent radiation proctitis, as it can be a side effect of necessary cancer treatment. However, your healthcare team may be able to adjust the dosage or delivery of the radiation to minimize the risk of proctitis. It is important to follow the treatment plan recommended by your healthcare provider and report any unusual symptoms promptly.