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Side Effect: Rectal Burning

What is Rectal Burning?

Rectal burning is a symptom characterized by a sensation of heat and discomfort in the rectal area.

What does Rectal Burning feel like?

The sensation of rectal burning is often described as a feeling of heat or burning in the anus or rectum and some patients may also experience itching, pain, and discomfort during bowel movements.

Who gets Rectal Burning?

Rectal burning can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

Radiation therapy for pelvic cancers such as prostate, bladder, or rectal cancer is a common cause of rectal burning in patients with cancer, as it can damage the rectal tissues and cause inflammation, leading to the sensation of burning.

Patients who take suppository medications also can experience some rectal burning during or shortly after administration.

On occasion, patients who receive intravenous dexamethasone (as a medication to prevent nausea before chemotherapy, or to reduce inflammation) can experience rectal burning. This is directly related to how fast dexamethasone is infused and the side effect usually does not occur when dexamethasone is infused over longer time periods

How to prevent Rectal Burning

To prevent rectal burning in patients with cancer, various strategies such as modifying radiation therapy techniques, using protective agents, and managing symptoms with medications can be utilized. It is also important to maintain good hygiene, a healthy diet, proper hydration, and use soft toilet paper.

If rectal burning is due to short infusions (known as an I.V. push) of dexamethasone, further doses should be infused over longer periods of time.

How to treat Rectal Burning


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Vanneste BG, Van De Voorde L, de Ridder RJ, et al. Chronic radiation proctitis: tricks to prevent and treat. Int J Colorectal Dis 2015;30(10):1293-1303.

Created: May 3, 2024 Updated: May 3, 2024