What Is the Best Treatment for Oral Mucositis in Patients With Cancer?
Battling a cancer diagnosis is a tall order for anyone, but the addition of chemotherapy and its side effects can make the fight feel downright impossible. Not only is the disease itself a threat to the patient’s life, but the hair loss, nausea, weight loss, nerve damage, and other side effects that accompany chemo treatments can sap your strength even as they take on your illness. Perhaps the most debilitating of these effects is the development of mouth sores, a condition known as oral mucositis. How do you treat oral mucositis? How can you prevent oral mucositis from occurring in the first place?
What Causes Oral Mucositis in Chemotherapy Patients?
Chemotherapy drugs are used to eliminate cancer because they are very effective at targeting cells that divide quickly – a key characteristic of cancer. Unfortunately, these drugs often fail to distinguish friend from foe, attacking healthy tissue and cancerous tissue alike. Healthy cells that grow rapidly like the cells in the mouth, hair, nails, and bone marrow, are vulnerable to these toxic chemicals. That’s why hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy treatments; it’s also the reason why sores form in the mouth after chemo.
As the chemotherapy drugs circulate through the body, passing through blood vessels on their way to their target, they eventually reach the mouth and often begin breaking down the mucous membranes that line the cheeks, tongue, and other areas. This attack causes the development of painful sores, bleeding, and inflammation that together constitute oral mucositis.
The Cost of Radiation-Induced Oral Mucositis
The costs of this condition can be enormous. A 2009 study published in the journal Dental Clinics of North America looked at the medical and economic impact of oral mucositis and found that the more severe the symptoms, the longer patients spent in the hospital, the longer they needed to be on IV nutrition and narcotic painkillers, and the greater their risk of serious infections or death. In total, these complications can cost a patient as much as $25,000, according to the study – and that’s on top of the already intimidating medical bills that tend to accompany the initial cancer treatments. For patients, this means that preventing and treating oral mucositis is more than a matter of comfort; it has medical and financial implications as well.
Common Treatments for Oral Mucositis in Cancer Patients
There are a number of over-the-counter and homemade options for oral mucositis treatment in cancer patients. However, their effectiveness can vary from treatment to treatment and from patient to patient.
While some of these treatments can be useful against the symptoms of mucositis, they each suffer from a shared flaw: they are only effective once the sores and pain have already appeared. The better solution, then, is to try and prevent the symptoms before they show up, or else reduce their severity as much as possible before complications have a chance to arise.
Take Care of Your Teeth
A good oral healthcare routine goes a long way when it comes to the management of oral mucositis in patients with cancer. Get in the habit of brushing and rinsing your mouth often. Keeping your mouth clean and mouth tissue moist helps to prevent infection through open mouth sores.
Avoid acidic, spicy, and crunchy foods, and also avoid alcohol and tobacco use.
Talk to Your Doctor About Mouth Sore History
If you have a history of recurring mouth sores, be sure to let your doctor know. Patients with recurring mouth sores from herpes simplex virus may be prescribed antivirals during chemotherapy treatment to help avoid those mouth sores during treatment.
Visit a Dentist
If possible, before starting your chemotherapy treatment, visit your dentist and take care of any dental issues like gum disease or cavities. Any pain or infections in your mouth will only get worse when your cancer treatment begins.
One of the simplest and most accessible treatments for chemotherapy-induced oral mucositis is a saltwater mouthwash; just add one tablespoon of salt to one quart of water for a proper mixture.
Rinsing out your mouth regularly with this solution can help keep your sores free of debris and bacteria, aiding the fight against infection while slightly reducing pain and inflammation. The addition of baking soda to your mouthwash can also be helpful because baking soda can neutralize the mouth’s natural acidity and relieve some of the pain generated by the sores.
Oral Cryotherapy (Cold-therapy)
Studies have shown that during chemotherapy, cold therapy, or oral cryotherapy is effective at limiting the amount of drug that reaches the mouth. These studies have reported that ice cryotherapy is effective in the “reduction or lack of chemotherapy-induced mouth blisters, (and) pain.”
How Does Cryotherapy Prevent Chemotherapy-induced Oral Mucositis?
Oncology nurses throughout the country distribute ice chips and popsicles to their patients during chemo treatments, employing cryotherapy to try and reduce mouth sore symptoms. The thinking behind this is simple: by applying ice to the inside of the mouth, the blood vessels are forced to shrink (vasoconstriction), which in turn allows less of the chemotherapy drugs to reach the area.
Though the theory is sound – several studies have shown cryotherapy to be a promising preventative measure against mucositis – the use of ice chips and popsicles represents an imperfect application of this principle. Ice chips, for instance, tend to sit at the bottom of the mouth or around the sides of the tongue, and popsicles likewise affect only a limited area. This leaves much of the mouth’s sensitive tissues vulnerable to the toxic chemotherapy drugs. Cryotherapy is one of the best ways to prevent or treat oral mucositis caused by chemotherapy.
The Chemo Mouthpiece™ is an intraoral ice pack specifically designed to address this issue. By using an ice-cold chemo sore mouthpiece that effectively cools the entire oral cavity uniformly, patients can now gain the benefits of cryotherapy throughout their entire palate. Plus, the device is extremely simple and easy to use; just freeze it at home before your treatment and leave it in your mouth as the drugs are being administered to see a significant reduction in the severity of your oral mucositis symptoms.
Oral Cryotherapy Device for the Prevention of Mouth Sores due to Chemotherapy
No longer do patients have to rely on ineffective ice chips or mouthwashes to prevent or treat chemotherapy mouth sores. With the invention of the Chemo Mouthpiece™, engineer and cancer survivor, David Yoskowitz, has created a device that will effectively fend off the worst of your mucositis symptoms, so you have one less battle to fight. To learn more about how the Chemo Mouthpiece™ can help you through this difficult time, contact us online or call (866) 461-7518 today.