Oral mucositis - self-care
Oral mucositis is tissue swelling in the mouth. Radiation therapy or chemotherapy may cause mucositis. Follow your health care provider's instructions on how to care for your mouth. Use the information below as a reminder.
Cancer treatment - mucositis; Cancer treatment - mouth pain; Cancer treatment - mouth sores; Chemotherapy - mucositis; Chemotherapy - mouth pain; Chemotherapy - mouth sores; Radiation therapy - mucositis; Radiation therapy - mouth pain; Radiation therapy - mouth sores
What to Expect
When you have mucositis, you may have symptoms such as:
With chemotherapy, mucositis heals by itself when there is no infection. Healing usually takes 2 to 4 weeks. Mucositis caused by radiation therapy usually lasts 6 to 8 weeks, depending on how long you have radiation treatment.
Taking Care of Your Mouth
Take good care of your mouth during cancer treatment. Not doing so 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:
Don't use rinses that have alcohol in them. You may use an antibacterial rinse 2 to 4 times a day for gum disease.
To further take care of your mouth:
Ask your provider about treatments you can use in your mouth, including:
Your provider may also give you pills for pain or medicine to fight infection in your mouth.
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. Oral complications of chemotherapy and head/neck radiation (PDQ) - health professional version. 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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