If you, or someone you know, is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments, they were most likely warned of the many side effects that come along with this treatment. Of these, oral mucositis is probably the most common complication of cancer treatments, and can lead to several issues, including pain, nutritional problems resulting in an inability to eat properly, and risk of infection due to open sores.
Mucositis occurs because cancer treatments break down the rapidly dividing epithelial cells lining the gastro-intestinal tract, and because of this, it tends to leave mucosal tissue open to ulcerations and infection. When caused by chemotherapy, mucositis is typically due to a low white blood cell count. When caused by radiation, however, mucositis is usually due to a necrotic and inflammatory effect radiation therapy has on oral mucosa.
Signs And Symptoms
Unfortunately, due to the nature of these treatments, most patients receiving chemotherapy or radiation – or a combination thereof – will experience some level of oral mucositis, so it’s extremely important to know how to prevent, treat, and recognize the symptoms. Firstly, it’s important to note that there are certain things that can increase the likelihood of this side-effect, or make it worse, should it occur. These include:
Poor oral health;
Smoking or chewing tobacco;
Low body mass index (BMI);
Existing diseases such as kidney disease, diabetes, etc.;
Previous cancer treatment.
The following are symptoms of oral mucositis. If you begin to experience any of these, let your doctor know as soon as possible:
Red, shiny, or swollen mouth and gums;
Blood present in the mouth;
Sores in the mouth of on the gums or tongue;
Soreness or pain in the mouth or throat;
Difficulty talking, swallowing, or eating;
Feeling of dryness, mild burning, or pain when eating;
Soft, white patches or pus in the mouth or on the tongue;
Increased mucus or thicker saliva