Mouth sores are a common side effect of cancer treatment. They result from small cuts or sores that form in the lining inside the mouth. The cells rapidly divide, just as cancer cells do. When chemotherapy and radiation are administered to attack cancer cells, they also attack the cells of the mucous membrane, which may lead to sores. This is especially possible if you are being treated with radiation to the head and neck area, taking certain chemotherapy drugs, or receiving high-dose chemotherapy with a bone marrow transplant.
Mouth sores may affect your gums, tongue, roof of your mouth, or lips. They typically start as areas with mild pain or burning and develop into white patches that may become large red lesions. Chemotherapy-related mouth sores typically develop within days after treatment begins and heal within two to four weeks after chemotherapy ends. Mouth sores caused by radiation typically develop two to three weeks after treatment starts and typically heal within four to six weeks.
Mouth sores may make talking, eating, or swallowing difficult. The pain may affect your nutrition if you stop eating. Life-threatening results may require a feeding tube. Also, an infection may develop if bacteria come in through open sores. For these reasons, your mouth sores need to be discussed with a doctor.
The best way to manage mouth sores is to prevent them from developing. For instance, brush and floss your teeth several times a day. Also, because cold limits the amount of the drug that reaches your mouth, suck on ice chips during the first half hour of chemotherapy. Additionally, drink two to three quarts of liquids daily. Further, eat soft/semi-liquid, high protein, high calorie foods or liquid supplements so you do not have to eat as often. Plus, avoid hot, spicy, greasy, fried, coarse, or rough-textured foods and citric juices or foods.
If mouth sores develop, talk with your doctor about rinsing your mouth with special solutions, or ask about prescribing a topical pain medication or medication that coats the lining of your mouth.
If you or someone you know is battling cancer, contact Chix 4 a Cause. Learn more about our Gifts of Love program at chix4acause.org today.