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Wong MTC, Lim JF, Ho KS, Ooi BS, Tang CL, Eu KW
Correspondence: Prof Eu Kong Weng, email@example.com
Introduction Pelvic radiotherapy is an essential component of potentially curative therapy for many pelvic malignancies; however, the rectum consequently often sustains collateral injury.
Methods The researchers retrieved patient data that was prospectively gathered over a ten-year period between January 1995 and December 2004. The relevant details, including gender, age, pelvic pathology for which radiotherapy was administered, the presenting symptoms, the interval between radiotherapy and the onset of symptoms, the mode of diagnosis, treatments received, length of hospital stay and duration of follow-up, were analysed.
Results During the period under review, 77 patients were admitted for the treatment of radiation proctitis, with a median follow-up period of 14 (range 1–61) months. There were 23 male and 54 female patients, with a median age of 63.9 (range 37–89) years. The most common underlying cancers were gynaecological (63.6 percent), prostate (18.2 percent) and colorectal (15.6 percent) cancer. The most common presenting symptom was bleeding per rectum (89.6 percent), with a change in bowel habits a distant second (10.4 percent). The median latent period between the completion of radiotherapy and the onset of symptoms was 24 (range 3–68) months. The majority of the patients (72.5 percent) received non-surgical treatment, most commonly using topical 4 percent formalin solution to arrest the bleeding, with more than half the patients requiring repeat treatments. 14 (18.2 percent) patients required colorectal resections for intractable bleeding, intestinal obstruction or intra-abdominal sepsis.
Conclusion Radiation proctitis can be a therapeutic challenge, even in the most experienced hands. The majority of patients who present with per rectal bleeding can be treated using topical modalities, while surgery may offer the only chance of relief from life-threatening symptoms.
Keywords: formalin, per-rectal bleeding, proctitis, radiation
Singapore Med J 2010; 51(4): 315-319