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Mouth sores due to cancer treatment: How exactly to cope

Mouth sores due to cancer treatment: How exactly to cope

Learn how to manage cancer treatment unwanted effects, including mouth sores, so that you can feel more in charge as you proceed through cancer treatment.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you are going to start cancer treatment, understand that certain treatments could cause mouth sores. The word that healthcare providers use for mouth sores is oral mucositis.

Mouth sores can hurt and feel uncomfortable. They are able to range between minor problems to severe complications. They might cause you to stop your cancer treatment. These sores makes it hard to drink and may make you shed weight as you can’t eat enough.

What exactly are cancer-related mouth sores?

Cancer-related mouth sores form within the mouth area or on your own lips. The sores appear to be burns and may hurt. Mouth sores makes it hard to consume, talk, swallow and breathe.

Sores can occur anywhere on the soft tissues of one’s lips or the mouth area. Sores can occur on the gums, the within of one’s cheeks, tongue, and roof or floor of the mouth. Sores may also happen in the tube that carries the meals you swallow to your stomach. This tube is named the esophagus.

Which cancer treatments cause mouth sores?

Generally, cancer treatments that may cause mouth sores include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy targeted at the top and neck
  • Bone marrow transplant, also referred to as a stem cell transplant
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy

Whether your cancer treatment may cause mouth sores depends upon which treatments you have and what doses you obtain. Ask your medical provider whether your unique medicines or treatments may cause mouth sores.

So what can I do to avoid mouth sores?

Although there is no sure solution to prevent mouth sores, it is possible to decrease your risk. Speak to your doctor about your threat of mouth sores and what that you can do.

Your provider might advise that you:

  • Get yourself a dental checkup. Visit your dentist before starting cancer treatment. Ensure that you care for any current problems with the mouth area. These range from gum disease, cavities or teeth that require to be pulled. Any pain or infections in the mouth area are certain to get worse once you begin treatment. Continue regular dental checkups during treatment, particularly if you have mouth sores.
  • Tell your provider when you have a brief history of mouth sores. If you have had mouth sores during the past, tell your provider. For instance, tell your provider if you have had mouth sores due to herpes virus. Your provider might recommend medicine to avoid those forms of mouth sores from happening during cancer treatment.
  • Look after your teeth. Brush your teeth and rinse the mouth area several times each day. Check labels on mouthwashes and do not use alcohol-based products.

    Floss each day, especially after eating. Create a routine for the mouth care now. That may make it simpler to continue throughout your treatment.

  • Give up smoking. In the event that you smoke, quit. Smoking during treatment can make it harder for the mouth to heal itself.
  • Eat an eating plan with plenty of vegetables and fruit. Select a diet which includes plenty of fruit and veggies. You will need the nutrients and vitamins they provide to greatly help the body fight infections during treatment.

Your provider may recommend different ways to lessen your threat of mouth sores, such as for example:

  • Using ice or water to help keep the mouth area cold. During certain forms of chemotherapy treatment, it could help swish ice chips or cool water around in the mouth area. The cold limits the quantity of treatment that reaches the mouth area. This can decrease your threat of mouth sores.
  • Medicine. Medicines to lessen the chance of mouth sores may be an option for folks having certain cancer treatments. These medicines will help those having bone marrow transplants or certain targeted therapy treatments.

How are mouth sores treated?

Even though you make an effort to prevent mouth sores, you might still have them. Treatment for mouth sores might help control the pain as you await the cells in the mouth area to heal.

Tell your medical provider if the mouth area feels sensitive or you see any sores forming. Your provider may recommend treatments, such as for example:

  • Coating agents. These medicines coat the within of one’s mouth. They form a film to safeguard the sores and minimize the pain you may feel while eating or drinking. Your provider may tell you firmly to swish and spit the medication.
  • Topical painkillers. These gel-like medicines could be put on the mouth sores. The mouth area may feel numb when working with painkillers. Be mindful when eating or brushing your teeth as you won’t be in a position to feel if you are hurting the mouth area more.

You can find other easy steps you can try lower the pain of mouth sores. You may:

  • Avoid painful foods. Avoid acidic foods and spicy foods. These will make the mouth area feel worse. Don’t eat sharp and crunchy foods. Included in these are chips, crackers and pretzels. Instead choose soft foods and cut them in small pieces.

    Alcohol can also hurt an already sore mouth. Don’t consume alcohol or use alcohol-based mouthwash. Browse the labels carefully.

    Eat foods at room temperature or slightly warm. Hot or cold foods may be painful to consume.

  • Eat smaller meals more often. Cut your meal into small pieces and eat slowly.
  • Work with a straw. Work with a straw for drinking to help keep liquids from the sore elements of the mouth area.
  • Continue cleaning the mouth area. It could hurt a great deal to work with a toothbrush. Ask your wellbeing care team or your dentist about special foam swabs. They might be easier on your own gums.

    Rinse out the mouth area several times each day. Avoid mouthwashes which contain alcohol.

    Mix water with just a little salt to swish around in the mouth area. You might try a mix of baking soda and tepid to warm water.

What goes on if mouth sores become severe?

If the mouth area sores worsen, they are able to become severe and cause other problems. Sometimes these problems get so very bad you need to stop your cancer treatment for some time.

Complications range from:

  • Infection. Mouth sores offer a good way for germs to find yourself in the body. Cancer treatment can weaken your disease fighting capability and serious infections can occur. Continue cleaning your teeth and mouth after and during treatment to lessen your threat of infection.
  • Bleeding. Chemotherapy minimises your body’s capability to stop bleeding if it starts. Mild bleeding from your own mouth may cause some spotting once you brush your teeth. Sometimes bleeding is severe and may be difficult to avoid.

    Whenever your mouth sores bleed, continue cleaning the mouth area as best it is possible to. That could mean just rinsing with water.

  • Problems eating and swallowing. Painful mouth sores makes it hard to consume and drink. If you are quickly slimming down, your medical provider may recommend a feeding tube to truly get you the nutrients you will need.

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Aug. 30, 2022

  1. Niederhuber JE, et al., eds. Oral complications. In: Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Elsevier; 2020. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed July 10, 2022.
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