A pelvic insufficiency fracture means a bone in the pelvis has fractured because it is weak or thin. This can happen after radiotherapy to the pelvic area.

What are pelvic insufficiency fractures (PIFs)?

When a bone in the body is weak or thin it cannot cope as well with the normal stresses put on it. This can lead to fractures. A pelvic insufficiency fracture (PIF) means a bone in the pelvis has fractured in this way.

Radiotherapy and PIFs

Radiotherapy can cause this type of change to the bone.

Radiotherapy to the pelvis (pelvic radiotherapy) may increase the risk of PIFs. Pelvic radiotherapy may be used to treat cancer of the anus, bladder, womb, cervix or rectum.

PIFs are most likely to happen:

  • to women having pelvic radiotherapy
  • in the first 2 years after the radiotherapy
  • if you also have osteoporosis.

Looking after your bones may help to reduce your risk.

Symptoms of PIFs

PIFs do not always cause noticeable symptoms. They may show up on a scan done for another reason.

About 5 in 100 women (5%) develop symptoms due to a PIF. Symptoms can range from a mild ache to severe pain. There may be pain in the lower back or pelvis when moving. This can make walking difficult. Pain is not usually a problem at rest or during sleep.

If you have pain in a bone, always tell your doctor. They can arrange for tests to check for the cause and give you treatment if needed.