Dry mouth during cancer treatment
Some cancer treatments and medicines can cause dry mouth. Take good care of your mouth during your cancer treatment. Follow the measures outlined below.
Chemotherapy - dry mouth; Radiation therapy - dry mouth; Transplant - dry mouth; Transplantation - dry mouth
What to Expect
Symptoms of dry mouth include:
Take Care of Your Mouth
Not caring for your mouth during cancer treatment can lead to an increase in bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria can cause infection in your mouth, which can spread to other parts of your body.
Rinse your mouth 5 or 6 times a day for 1 to 2 minutes each time. Use one of the following solutions when you rinse:
DO NOT use mouth rinses that have alcohol in them. You may use an antibacterial rinse 2 to 4 times a day for gum disease.
Other tips for taking care of your mouth include:
Talk with your dentist about:
You need to eat enough protein and calories to keep your weight up. Ask your health care provider about liquid food supplements that can help you meet your caloric needs and keep up your strength.
To make eating easier:
Drink 8 to 12 cups (2 to 3 liters) of liquid each day (not including coffee, tea, or other drinks that have caffeine).
DO NOT drink alcohol or beverages that contain alcohol. They will bother your throat.
Avoid foods that are very spicy, that contain a lot of acid, or that are very hot or very cold.
If pills are hard to swallow, ask your provider if it is OK to crush your pills. (Some pills do not work if they are crushed.) If it is OK, crush them up and add them to some ice cream or another soft food.
Majithia N, Hallemeier CL, Loprinzi CL. Oral complications. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Kastan MB, Doroshow JH, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 40.
National Cancer Institute website. Chemotherapy and you: support for people with cancer. www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/chemotherapy-and-you.pdf. Updated September 2018. Accessed March 6, 2020.
National Cancer Institute website. Mouth and throat problems during cancer treatment. www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/mouth-throat. Updated January 21, 2020. Accessed March 6, 2020.
National Cancer Institute website. Oral complications of chemotherapy and head/neck radiation. www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/mouth-throat/oral-complications-hp-pdq. Updated December 16, 2016. Accessed March 6, 2020.
Review Date: 2/6/2020
Reviewed By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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