This section has been reviewed and approved by the PLWC Editorial
Mucositis is inflammation of the inside of the
mouth and throat that can lead to painful ulcers and mouth sores. It
occurs in up to 40% of people receiving chemotherapy. Mucositis
can be caused by the following:
- Some types of chemotherapy
- A decrease in the
functioning of the immune system, brought on by chemotherapy
- Radiation treatment to
the head and neck area
(GVHD). In people who have received a bone marrow transplant, mucositis can be a sign of GVHD, which is when
the donated blood cells attack the body's tissue.
The best way to manage mucositis is to prevent
it before it starts or to treat it early. Oral cryotherapy,
which involves the sucking on ice chips just before and during each
chemotherapy treatment, may reduce the occurrence of mucositis
caused by certain types of chemotherapy, such as fluorouracil (5-FU)
injections. For treating mucositis, local
anesthetics (creams that dull pain) or analgesics (drugs that treat pain,
such as aspirin) may be helpful. Other drugs to treat or prevent mucositis are currently under investigation.
It is also wise to make extra effort to take care of your mouth during
cancer treatment. The following suggestions may help:
- Brush your teeth gently
with fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss gently.
- Rinse or gargle with a
solution of saltwater and baking soda (1/2 teaspoon of salt plus 1/2
teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water).
- Remove dentures.
- Choose foods that
require little or no chewing.
- Avoid acidic, spicy,
salty, coarse, or dry foods.
People receiving radiation treatment to the head and neck
should see a dentist before beginning treatment because the dentist may
be able to help preserve teeth and prevent infection.