Background: Approximately 12,000 individuals undergo pelvic radiotherapy in the UK every year and up to 50% may develop symptoms of chronic radiation enteritis (CRE). Health professionals often give inappropriate dietary advice to patients in an attempt to avoid CRE symptoms, such as avoiding fibre, despite a lack of evidence to support this.
Methods: The present study aimed to explore dietary advice and changes made to the diet by women treated with pelvic radiotherapy. A questionnaire was distributed to 117 women attending Liverpool Women's Hospital, exploring symptoms of CRE and asking questions about diet and medication advice received, as well as changes made to the diet.
Results: Ninety-five (87.2%) women completed the questionnaire and 47% had changed their diet. No significant relationship was observed between receiving dietary advice and making changes to the diet (P > 0.05), although those advised by a dietitian were more likely to be taking regular anti-diarrhoeal medication (P < 0.05) and those taking regular medication found that it helped most/all of the time (P < 0.001).
Conclusions: CRE sufferers should be dissuaded from unnecessarily restricting their diet, which may result in malnutrition. Regular follow-up screening should lead to the identification of sufferers and the offer of individual advice if necessary.