Mouth Sores (Mucositis)

Radiation treatments for head and neck cancer and some types of chemotherapy can cause sores inside the mouth and on the mucous lining of the throat and digestive tract. These sores, called mucositis, can be a serious problem because they can cause pain and infections, making it difficult to eat, drink and swallow.

Once treatment ends, mouth sores do disappear within a few weeks. But before they start and while they are present, it’s important that you work closely with your health care team to manage this side effect of cancer treatments, including chemotherapy.

Maintaining Oral Health

One of the key things you can do to manage mucositis is to take good care of your mouth, including keeping it clean. Here are some tips:

• Visit your dentist before treatment. He or she can make sure that your mouth is as healthy as possible before you begin treatment and can provide important information to the rest of your health care team.

• Choose a soft-bristle brush for brushing your teeth.

• If toothpaste irritates your mouth, use a mixture of a half teaspoon of salt with four cups of water.

• Gargling may also help. Use a solution made up of one quart of plain water, a half teaspoon of table salt and a half teaspoon of baking soda.

• Drink plenty of fluids.