It is very important to work closely with your health care team to manage mouth sores, also known as “oral mucositis”.

Oral mucositis refers to mouth sores caused by some cancer treatments such as high dose chemotherapy, or head and neck radiation for treatment of mouth cancer. The mouth sores typically occur on the lining tissues of the mouth such as the inside the cheeks as well as sides of and under the tongue. Depending upon the type of cancer treatment, oral mucositis can be a serious side effect. These types of sores aren’t always found just in the mouth. Depending upon the type of cancer treatment, the condition can also affect the upper part of the throat and other parts of the digestive system.

Mouth sores can cause pain and infection that make it difficult to swallow, eat, and drink. For this reason, they can also lead to weight loss in some people. Patients who are unable to eat or drink for a long period of time may need to receive fluids and nutrition through an intravenous line or a feeding tube, which could require a hospital stay.

It is important that you talk with members of your health care team about how best to manage this side effect, even before cancer treatment begins. If you experience mouth sores, there are medications they can prescribe to reduce pain, infection, and discomfort from mouth sores until you finish your cancer treatment. There are also things you can do on your own to help manage this symptom. Once the cancer treatment ends, mouth sores gradually fade over the next few weeks.