What are radiation treatment-related complications of cervical cancer?

Updated: Feb 12, 2019
  • Author: Cecelia H Boardman, MD; Chief Editor: Warner K Huh, MD  more...
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During the acute phase of pelvic radiation therapy, the surrounding normal tissues (eg, intestines, bladder, and perineal skin) often are affected. Acute adverse gastrointestinal (GI) effects include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, rectal discomfort, and bleeding. Diarrhea can usually be controlled by giving either loperamide or atropine sulfate. Small steroid-containing enemas are prescribed to alleviate symptoms from proctitis.

Cystourethritis also can occur, leading to dysuria, frequency, and nocturia. Antispasmodics often are helpful for symptom relief. Urine should be examined for possible infection. If urinary tract infection (UTI) is diagnosed, therapy should be instituted without delay.

Proper skin hygiene should be maintained for the perineum. Topical lotion should be used if erythema or desquamation occurs.

Late sequelae of radiation therapy usually appear 1-4 years after treatment. The major sequelae include rectal or vaginal stenosis, small bowel obstruction, malabsorption, radiation enteritis, and chronic cystitis.

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