Is There Anything Better Than Ice for Chemotherapy Mouth Sores?
Mouth sores may sound like a mere nuisance, but countless chemotherapy patients can attest to the drastic toll oral mucositis can take on a person’s quality of life. As many as 40% of patients who undergo chemotherapy can develop this condition; for high-dose chemo, the number can be as high as 80% (Source). It’s important to note, however, that the cost of oral mucositis goes well beyond the discomfort caused by sores, often impacting a patient’s overall physical and financial well-being, and the prevailing treatment is nothing more than ice chips or popsicles.
Is there anything better than ice to treat oral mucositis? Keep reading as the experts from Chemo mouthpiece™ answer this very question.
The Cause and Symptoms of Oral Mucositis
It’s no secret that the drugs used in chemotherapy treatments are toxic; in fact, it’s the entire reason they’re used to fight the ceaseless growth of cancer cells. Unfortunately, these powerful drugs fail to recognize friend from foe, so they end up attacking healthy tissue as well as diseased cells. This damage manifests itself in a number of ways – nausea and hair loss being perhaps the most familiar – but few are as unpleasant or downright painful as oral mucositis.
When the chemicals used to defeat cancer reach the vulnerable soft tissues of the mouth, they break down the mucous membranes, causing painful ulcers, bleeding, and inflammation, not to mention a host of further complications. Patients with oral mucositis often report an inability to swallow due to pain, which can lead to nutritional deficits that can ultimately delay treatments and worsen a patient’s prognosis. Infections are also a significant risk, as the open sores in the mouth are vulnerable to bacteria and other contaminants.
The combination of these factors makes oral mucositis arguably the most debilitating side effect of chemotherapy, and certainly one of the most expensive. A single-point increase in the severity of mucositis – the illness is typically measured on a scale of 0-4 – has been shown to cause an average of 1 extra day of fever, a 2.1x increase in infection risk, 2.7 more days of IV nutrition, 2.6 more days of narcotic treatment, 2.6 more days in the hospital, and a 3.9x increase in 100-day mortality risk. All told the financial cost of that one-point increase can be as much as $25,000. (Source) For these economic impacts and those on a patient’s health and treatment, it is especially important to limit the severity of oral mucositis as much as possible.
Preventing Oral Mucositis with Ice Chips and Popsicles
There are several options for the prevention and treatment of oral mucositis, few of which have much impact on the condition, truth be told. The most common preventative measure taken in treatment centers is the distribution of ice chips or popsicles to patients; the principle behind this is based on cryotherapy or the use of freezing temperatures to affect the body. Icing a bruise is an example of this, but so are the ice chips given to chemo patients.
The idea is that the cold from the ice chips or popsicles will shrink the blood vessels of the mouth – a phenomenon familiar to anyone who has experienced brain freeze – and thereby limit the ability of toxic chemotherapy drugs to reach the tissues of the oral cavity; an apt metaphor might be closing several lanes on a highway to limit the flow of traffic. The principle is sound, as cold is certainly capable of constricting blood vessels, but the delivery system – the ice chips and popsicles distributed in treatment centers – is flawed. Ice chips sit in the bottom of the mouth due to gravity, cooling the area around the tongue and not much else; popsicles suffer from similar limitations, though they may be a bit of an improvement over ice chips. But what other options exist?
Stopping Oral Mucositis with an Advanced Cryotherapy Device
While cryotherapy through ice chips may be an imperfect solution, a more potent option is available. An advanced cryotherapy device for mouth sores with a deceptively simple design, the Chemo Mouthpiece™ can quickly and effectively cool your entire mouth by as much as 30°F, all at once, for the duration of your chemo infusion.
The device features a freshwater core wrapped by a layer of saltwater enclosed by silicone. Freezing the Chemo Mouthpiece™ in a standard freezer causes the center to harden into ice that keeps the device cool, while the outer-saltwater layer stays cold without freezing, allowing the silicone mouthpiece to comfortably fit into your mouth while simultaneously combatting oral mucositis. Tubes extend through the unit to allow for easy breathing.
Because it fills the entire oral cavity and stays cold for at least 30 minutes, it delivers the power of cryotherapy throughout your mouth, fighting oral mucositis from front to back and side to side. While it does not always prevent the condition, it can be very effective at reducing its severity. For more information about how cryotherapy treats oral mucositis, contact us today.
Freeze Oral Mucositis in Its Tracks with the Chemo Mouthpiece™
The Chemo Mouthpiece™ is an innovative product designed by engineer and cancer survivor David Yoskowitz to specifically address oral mucositis. Its ability to protect the vulnerable mucous membranes in the mouth is second to none; simply keep it in your mouth while receiving your chemotherapy treatment and you’ll see the difference for yourself. To learn more about the Chemo Mouthpiece™ and how it can ward off oral mucositis for you or a loved one, visit us online or call (866) 461-7518 today.