Radiation-induced bowel injury: the impact of radiotherapy on survivorship after treatment for gynaecological cancers
S Kuku, C Fragkos, M McCormack and A Forbes
British Journal of Cancer 109, 1504-1512 (17 September 2013) | doi:10.1038/bjc.2013.491
The number of women surviving cancer who live with symptoms of bowel toxicity affecting their quality of life continues to rise. In this retrospective study, we sought to describe and analyse the presenting clinical features in our cohort, and evaluate possible predictors of severity and chronicity in women with radiation-induced bowel injury after treatment for cervical and endometrial cancers.
Review of records of 541 women treated within the North London Gynaecological Cancer Network between 2003 and 2010 with radiotherapy with or without chemotherapy for cervical and endometrial cancer identified 152 women who reported significant new bowel symptoms after pelvic radiation.
Factor analysis showed that the 14 most common and important presenting symptoms could be ‘clustered’ into 3 groups with predictive significance for chronicity and severity of disease. Median follow-up for all patients was 60 months. Univariate analysis showed increasing age, smoking, extended field radiation, cervical cancer treatment and the need for surgical intervention to be significant predictors for severity of ongoing disease at last follow-up. On multivariate analysis, only age, cancer type (cervix) and symptom combinations/‘cluster’ of (bloating, flatulence, urgency, rectal bleeding and per-rectal mucus) were found to be significant predictors of disease severity. Fifteen (19%) women in the cervical cancer group had radiation-induced bowel injury requiring surgical intervention compared with five (6.7%) in the endometrial cancer group.
Women with cervical cancer are younger and appear to suffer more severe symptoms of late bowel toxicity, whereas women treated for endometrial cancer suffer milder more chronic disease. The impact of radiation-induced bowel injury and the effect on cancer survivorship warrants further research into investigation of predictors of severe late toxicity. There is a need for prospective trials to aid early diagnosis, while identifying the underlying patho-physiological process of the bowel injury.
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