Does Ice Work for Mouth Sores from Chemo?
Anyone going through chemotherapy can likely tell you about how debilitating the process can be. Not only are the symptoms of cancer quite difficult to manage, but the effects of the toxic chemo drugs used to combat this disease can be equally challenging, if not more so.
Of course, it’s no secret that chemotherapy treatments cause significant suffering in the patients who receive them; we’ve all come to recognize a hairless, scarf-swaddled head as the tell-tale sign of chemo, and there are other well-known side effects as well – nausea, weight loss, fatigue, and nerve pain, to name a few. Among these symptoms is a condition that is less infamous but every bit as harmful: chemo mouth sores, also known as oral mucositis. Like many of chemo’s side effects, oral mucositis is difficult to prevent, but some believe that ice can help fight this condition. So, does ice work for mouth sores from chemo? Keep reading to find out.
Why Does Chemo Cause Mouth Sores?
To understand why mouth sores occur during chemotherapy – and how to treat them – it’s important to keep in mind that, although chemo is often an effective, even life-saving treatment for a deadly disease, it also involves pumping toxic chemicals into the body. These drugs are effective as a treatment because they circulate throughout the body, attacking any cells that divide and grow rapidly – a signature trait of cancer cells. Unfortunately, more than a few perfectly healthy cells tend to get caught up in the chemo drugs’ attacks, which is what causes the many unpleasant side effects associated with this type of therapy.
Take hair, for example. Our hair follicles produce cells quickly as our hair grows, which is why it is so vulnerable to the predations of chemo medications. Other tissues in the body that exhibit rapid growth include those in the nails, bone marrow, and mucus membranes – all areas associated with common chemo side effects.
Once the chemo drugs in the patient’s system reach the membranes lining the mouth and tongue, these soft tissues begin to degrade, causing the formation of painful lesions that can make eating solid foods difficult or even impossible. These sores represent a unique danger to cancer patients; because they’re open, they present an opportunity for bacteria and other contaminants to get into the patient’s system, causing potentially life-threatening infections and jeopardizing the patient’s recovery and overall prognosis.
The Cost of Mouth Sores from Chemo
As significant as the impact of this condition can be on a patient’s quality of life, so too is the cost of oral mucositis potentially crippling to a patient’s finances. Oral mucositis is a condition that can lead to some very serious complications that add large sums to a patient’s hospital bills, especially since chemo also tends to sabotage the immune system.
A 2008 study found that an uptick in the severity of a patient’s oral mucositis symptoms led to more than double the risk of a serious infection, 2.7 more days of IV nutrition, 2.6 more days of narcotic painkillers, 2.6 extra days of general hospitalization, and almost 4 times the likelihood of death. As sobering as these numbers are, the economic toll is maybe even greater: These increases in treatment requirements can add up to more than $25,000 in additional hospital bills per patient, according to the study. This price tag makes mitigating your oral mucositis symptoms as much a matter of financial health as physical health.
Fight the Symptoms of Oral Mucositis with Chemotherapy
Though there is no guaranteed method for preventing the formation of mouth sores from chemo, there are a few ways to help reduce the symptoms in specific chemo regimens. Some of these, such as mouth rinses and oral gels, can help manage the pain and reduce the chances of infection, but they do little to stop mucositis before it starts. The only method shown to have this effect is cryotherapy – the use of freezing or near-freezing temperatures to treat the body.
In hospitals and cancer treatment centers across the country, doctors and nurses give patients ice chips or popsicles to cool their mouths during chemo. This is cryotherapy at work: By chilling the vulnerable tissues of the mouth, the blood vessels in those areas are forced to constrict, limiting the amount of chemo that can reach the area and stopping much of the damage before it can happen.
Ice can only do so much, however; because it melts quickly and cools only a small area, much of the patient’s mouth is still affected by the toxic chemo drugs. It also is difficult for those with sensitive teeth and can cause nausea as it melts.
A much more effective option would be an oral cryotherapy device such as the Chemo Mouthpiece™, which was specifically designed by an engineer and cancer survivor to prevent as much of a patient’s mucositis symptoms as possible. Having used ice chips and still suffering from oral mucositis himself, he went to work in finding a better solution.
This simple, easy-to-use device can be kept in your home freezer until your next treatment, then brought with you in the stainless steel cooler included with your purchase. Just before your chemo infusion begins, place the Chemo Mouthpiece™ in your mouth and let its powerful cooling action lower the temperature thereby as much as 30 degrees, providing a significantly more effective form of cryotherapy than ice chips.
Fight the Mouth Sores Caused by Chemo with the Chemo Mouthpiece™
If you or someone you know is going through chemotherapy and would like to fend off the worst of their oral mucositis symptoms, the Chemo Mouthpiece™ may be able to help. Our patented device is safe, reliable, and effective – not to mention that it can significantly improve a patient’s quality of life. To find out more about the Chemo Mouthpiece™, including how it works and how you can get one for yourself, visit us online or call (866) 461-7518 today.