Can Chemo Cause Mouth Ulcers?

Find out how patients are finding relief from oral mucositis caused by chemotherapy

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Can Chemo Cause Mouth Ulcers?

Chemotherapy treatments have earned a reputation for causing a host of painful, unpleasant side effects almost as difficult as the very disease they’re designed to fight. Many of these side effects are well-known – hair loss (alopecia), weight loss – but others get less exposure, though they are often just as agonizing. Perhaps the most debilitating of these is the occurrence of oral mucositis, a condition that causes open sores and inflammation in the mouth due to chemotherapy. What causes these ulcers, and which tools to prevent chemotherapy mouth sores can a patient use? Continue reading as the oral cryotherapy experts at Chemo Mouthpiece™ answer those questions and others.

The Cause of Oral Mucositis

Cancer is most commonly characterized by the rapid, chaotic growth of tissue in the body. To fight such a resilient disease, chemotherapy drugs are used to attack cells that divide quickly. This makes them quite effective at seeking out and destroying cancerous tissue, but they also have a tendency to affect certain types of healthy cells that, by design, also multiply rapidly; these include cells in the mouth, hair, finger and toenails, digestive system, and bone marrow. This is the reason why patients often experience hair loss while undergoing chemotherapy, and it’s why they can develop the symptoms of oral mucositis as well.

As the chemotherapy drugs are administered, they circulate through the body, carried along through the blood vessels that permeate all our internal systems. Once these drugs reach the mouth, they sometimes begin to attack and break down the mucous membranes. This causes the ulcers, bleeding, pain, and inflammation that, together, constitute oral mucositis. As many as 40% of patients receiving chemo will develop this condition, and up to 80% of high-dose chemo patients will experience it as well. (Source)

Symptoms and Complications of Chemo Mouth Ulcers

The effects of oral mucositis extend well beyond the obvious symptoms. In fact, a single-point increase in the severity of mucositis has been linked to additional days of fever, IV nutrition, and narcotic therapy, according to a 2009 study published in the journal Dental Clinics of North America. (The severity of oral mucositis is commonly measured on a scale of 0-4.) It also carries more than double the risk of serious infection and an almost four-fold rise in a patient’s 100-day mortality risk.

All told, the potential for complications caused by oral mucositis can be staggering, not least because of the financial cost of extended treatment and hospitalization. Patients who are already grappling with the mountain of medical bills that accompany cancer treatment can see as much as an additional $25,000 in hospital charges to address these complications, some of which force doctors to delay further chemo infusions. Avoiding the worst of oral mucositis is more than a matter of comfort or maintaining quality of life; this condition can grow into a threat to a patient’s overall health at a time when they already have plenty to contend with. So is there any way to prevent the mouth sores caused by chemotherapy from showing up?

Preventing Mouth Sores After Chemotherapy

To date, there is no singular treatment for chemo mouth sores that can entirely prevent the appearance of oral mucositis in chemo patients, but there are some ways to limit the severity – and cost – of this ailment. The most effective of these methods is called cryotherapy, a term referring to the use of freezing or near-freezing temperatures to affect the body’s processes. In the case of oral mucositis prevention, the goal is to apply these low temperatures to the tissue of the mouth immediately before and during the infusion of chemotherapy drugs, causing the blood vessels of the mouth to constrict (vasoconstriction) and limiting the ability of these drugs to reach the vulnerable tissues of the mouth.

In cancer centers across the country, oncology nurses distribute ice chips and popsicles to patients to create this exact effect. A number of studies have shown cryotherapy to be effective for many patients, though the use of ice chips is an imperfect method of its application. That’s because ice chips tend to simply sit in the bottom of the mouth or around the tongue, cooling those areas but no others. This limits their ability to prevent sores on the cheeks or the roof of the mouth. They are also intolerable for patients with sensitive teeth.

By comparison, the intraoral chill provided by the Chemo Mouthpiece™ is much better at reaching every part of the oral cavity, cooling the entire area by as much as 30 degrees over the course of a half-hour chemotherapy infusion. This makes the Chemo Mouthpiece™ a patient’s best chance to prevent oral mucositis symptoms, saving them money, effort, and pain as they battle a deadly disease.

Ice Pack for Preventing Mouth Sores Caused by Chemotherapy

For preventing the terrible sores, pain, bleeding, and inflammation that can follow chemotherapy treatments, there is the innovative Chemo Mouthpiece™. Invented by engineer and cancer survivor David Yoskowitz, this simple, easy-to-use device can effectively cool your entire mouth during treatment to protect you from the ravages of oral mucositis and all the costs it carries with it. To learn more about how the Chemo Mouthpiece™ can help you stop or defeat this difficult condition, visit us online or call (866) 461-7518 today.

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