If you're about to begin cancer treatment, be aware that certain treatments can cause mouth sores (oral mucositis). Mouth sores can be painful and distressing. They can range from a mere inconvenience to a severe complication that may make you unable to continue your cancer treatment.
Cancer-related mouth sores form on the inside lining of your mouth or on your lips. The mouth sores appear burn-like and can be painful, making it difficult to eat, talk, swallow and breathe. Sores can appear on any of the soft tissues of your lips or your mouth, including the gums, tongue, and roof or floor of the mouth. Sores can also extend into the tube (esophagus) that carries food to your stomach.
Chemotherapy and radiation — alone or combined — can cause mouth sores. That's because these cancer treatments are intended to kill rapidly growing cells, such as cancer cells. Some healthy cells in your body also divide and grow rapidly, including the cells that line the inside of your mouth. Unfortunately these healthy cells are also damaged by chemotherapy and radiation. Damage to the cells in your mouth makes it difficult for your mouth to heal itself and to fend off germs, leading to sores and infections.
Mouth sores caused by chemotherapy treatment usually develop a few days after treatment begins and go away within two or three weeks after stopping chemotherapy. The mouth sores usually reach their peak around the seventh day after chemotherapy treatment ends. Only radiation aimed at your head or neck causes mouth sores. Whether your radiation treatment will cause mouth sores depends on how much radiation you receive and whether you're also receiving chemotherapy at the same time. You may begin to experience mouth pain two to three weeks after you begin radiation. More-intense doses of radiation will cause mouth sores to develop more quickly. Mouth sores from radiation may last four to six weeks after your last radiation treatment.
Both chemotherapy and radiation can impair your body's germ-fighting system (immune system). With an impaired immune system, viruses, bacteria and fungi can more easily infect your mouth, causing mouth sores or making mouth sores worse. Newer forms of cancer therapy, such as targeted therapy drugs or drugs that stimulate your immune system to fight cancer, can also produce mouth sores as a side effect.
HOW DO YOU TREAT MOUTH SORES?