What Is the Difference Between Mucositis and Stomatitis?
For patients going through chemotherapy or radiation, learning to identify and treat new side effects is a grim responsibility. As they progress from one infusion or dose to the next, the patient’s body begins to break down, leading to symptoms that range from the uncomfortable – rashes or hair loss, for example – to the severe, such as nerve pain or a compromised immune system. One of the most debilitating side effects of chemo and radiation is the appearance of painful sores in the mouth, part of a condition called oral mucositis. Patients who have researched the effects of chemo and radiation may have heard another term in reference to these symptoms, however: stomatitis. So, what’s the difference between mucositis and stomatitis? To find out, keep reading as the team at Chemo Mouthpiece™ explain.
Mucositis vs. Stomatitis in Patients with Cancer
There are many different terms used to describe the various kinds of inflammation and discomfort cancer patients experience during their course of treatment. One of the most general of these is the term “stomatitis,” which is used to describe any type of sore or inflammation that affects the cheeks, tongue, lips, or gums – anywhere in or around the mouth, in other words. Though the term is largely nonspecific as far as symptoms are concerned, two particular conditions are often treated as the primary forms of stomatitis: cold sores and canker sores.
On the other hand, the term “mucositis” is fairly specific: It refers to inflammation or sores that affect the body’s mucous membranes, such as those in the mouth and throughout the digestive tract. Typically, the variety that has the biggest impact on a cancer patient is oral mucositis, which – as the name implies – affects the mucosa in the mouth. This condition is characterized by the development of painful lesions/sores along the cheeks, tongue, gums, and lips, often accompanied by painful inflammation, dry mouth, or a thickening of the saliva.
These two terms – mucositis and stomatitis – are often interchangeable; a patient with oral mucositis could also be said to suffer from stomatitis, and vice versa. However, in discussions about the side effects of cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, the term “oral mucositis” is used most often, as it is more specific to the patient’s situation.
What Causes Stomatitis in Cancer Patients?
Everyone knows that chemo and radiation can put serious strain on a patient’s system; this is especially true for chemotherapy, which is what’s known as a “systemic” treatment (meaning that it affects the entire body, instead of just one area). As the toxic chemicals used in chemo circulate through a patient in search of cancer cells, they also tend to attack healthy cells that behave like cancer – in other words, cells that rapidly divide and grow. This makes several types of healthy tissues vulnerable to damage at the hands of chemo medication – especially those in the mouth, hair, nails, digestive tract, and bone marrow – which ultimately causes many of chemo’s unpleasant side effects.
When chemo drugs reach the mouth, they begin to break down the mucous membranes there, causing the formation of sores that present a number of problems for patients. Not only can these lesions cause severe pain, but they also offer a pathway to invading bacteria and fungi, possibly leading to an infection at a time when the patient’s immune system is likely weakened. One study linked mucositis to significant increases in the duration of a patient’s fever, use of narcotic painkillers, need for IV nutrition, and overall hospitalization. All told, the cost of mucositis can be in the tens of thousands of dollars for patients with more severe cases.
Fighting Oral Mucositis Caused by Chemotherapy
Although there is not yet a surefire way to prevent the development of stomatitis or mucositis completely for patients undergoing chemo, there are a few tips patients should follow that can reduce the severity of their symptoms; you can find two of the most effective suggestions below.
Practice Good Oral Hygiene
Maintaining a good oral care routine during chemo is very important. Keeping your mouth clean and healthy before, during, and after treatment can help mitigate your oral mucositis symptoms, and any infection in the mouth, including gingivitis, can represent a threat to a patient’s overall health. Try brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush after every meal and rinsing your mouth out with a solution containing salt water and baking soda several times a day.
Use Cryotherapy During Treatment
It may not be foolproof, but cryotherapy has nonetheless shown great promise as a method of preventing the worst mucositis. The way it works is simple: By chilling the inside of the mouth, the blood vessels in the area condense, which means that less of the toxic chemo drugs can reach the vulnerable tissues in the mouth. Many treatment centers distribute ice chips for this purpose, but a much more effective option is the Chemo Mouthpiece™, a simple, easy-to-use oral cryotherapy device specifically designed to help cancer patients manage their mucositis symptoms.
Powerful Oral Cryotherapy Available with the Chemo Mouthpiece™
If you or someone you know is struggling with or is at risk of oral mucositis caused by chemo, know that help is available. The Chemo Mouthpiece™ isn’t some gimmick; it’s a carefully designed medical device created by David Yoskowitz, an engineer and cancer survivor with firsthand experience dealing with oral mucositis. By uniformly cooling the mouth during treatment, the Chemo Mouthpiece™ can severely limit the amount of chemo drugs that reach the area, which in turn can limit oral mucositis symptoms. To learn more about how the Chemo Mouthpiece™ works and how it can help you or a loved one, visit us online or call (866) 461-7518 today.