How Long Does It Take for Mouth Sores to Heal After Chemo?
The battle with cancer is long and arduous, but many people make it through their fight to experience a life free from the effects of cancer and its treatments. Many of the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation — hair loss, nausea, mouth sores, etc. — can feel even more debilitating than the touch of cancer itself, leading patients to eagerly await the end of these procedures so their bodies can regain their proper functions. But how long does it take for mouth sores to heal after your last chemotherapy treatment, and is there a device to help treat chemo mouth sores? Keep reading as the experts at Chemo Mouthpiece™ discuss that topic further.
The Cause of Oral Mucositis
The treatments for oral mucositis can cause a whole host of problems that seriously diminish a patients’ quality of life. That’s because chemotherapy lacks the ability to distinguish friend from foe, attacking healthy tissue and diseased tissue with equal ferocity. More specifically, chemo drugs target cells that multiply quickly, making them an excellent weapon against cancer, but also against cells in the hair, nails, mouth, and bone marrow. As they circulate through the body during treatment, the chemicals affect all tissues, often to a patient’s detriment.
When the chemotherapy medications reach the sensitive mucous membranes, they cause them to break down, forming painful sores, redness, swelling, ulcers, and inflammation that together make up oral mucositis. As many as 40% of patients who undergo chemo will develop this condition and as many as 80% of those who are subjected to high-dose chemotherapy. (Source)
This ailment is considered by many patients to be the most debilitating of all chemo’s side effects, not only because of the discomfort that comes with it but also because a number of severe complications can arise alongside mouth sores. A 2009 study published in the journal Dental Clinics of North America found that greater mucositis severity was linked to longer hospitalization; additional days of fever, IV nutrition, and narcotic painkillers; and a higher chance of developing an infection. Collectively, these complications can cost a patient as much as $25,000 in additional medical expenses.
How Long Do Mouth Sores Last After Chemotherapy?
Though the exact timeline for oral mucositis symptoms can vary from patient to patient, certain trends suggest that the majority of those who experience mouth sores follow a similar path. Typically, the symptoms of mucositis appear about a week after beginning chemo treatments, remaining for about two weeks after the therapy has ended.
However, there are some factors that can complicate the recovery process. For starters, those who have undergone radiation therapy will likely see more extensive oral mucositis symptoms and longer recovery time than patients who received chemotherapy alone. Also, a number of side effects could last longer than the sores themselves, including the improper function of salivary glands or changes in taste.
How to Heal Oral Mucositis More Quickly
While there is not yet a way to completely prevent the occurrence of oral mucositis, there is one treatment method that has shown to be quite effective at reducing the severity of symptoms: cryotherapy, the use of freezing temperatures to affect the body’s tissues. It’s the same principle that leads people to ice their bumps and bruises to relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation, though the aim with mucositis is a bit different. Instead of treating the symptoms after they appear, using cryotherapy during treatment can prevent the worst of those symptoms from showing up at all.
To accomplish this goal, ice or something similar is applied to the vulnerable tissue of the mouth, causing temperatures to drop in those areas; in response, the blood vessels there will contract (vasoconstriction), limiting the flow of blood into those tissues. Because chemotherapy drugs access the area through those same blood vessels, less of the drugs will be able to reach the mucous membranes, limiting the potential damage they can do to your mouth.
The primary method of applying cryotherapy in cancer centers is through the use of ice chips and popsicles. These treatments are both cheap and readily accessible, but their effectiveness is somewhat limited. Ice chips, for instance, tend to sit along the bottom of the mouth, cooling the sides of the tongue and nearby areas but no others; similarly, ice pops are unable to reach all the necessary areas in the mouth. Furthermore, many patients cannot tolerate ice chips due to sensitivity issues.
By comparison, the cooling effects of the Chemo Mouthpiece™ are much more effective because they lower the temperature of the entire mouth uniformly, while silicone puts a barrier between the gums and ice-cold, making it more tolerable for those with aforementioned sensitive teeth. This shrinks all blood vessels in the area, as opposed to just a few, making it superior to ice chips or popsicles for administering cryotherapy during chemo treatments.
Oral Ice Pack for Patients with Chemo Mouth Sores
With so much to worry about after a cancer diagnosis, many patients understandably want to limit the debilitating side effects of their chemo treatments and make their lives just a little bit easier in the process. The Chemo Mouthpiece™ is a simple and effective cryotherapy device aimed at significantly reducing the symptoms of oral mucositis, so you don’t have to worry so much about the pain, bleeding, inflammation, or potential infections that go along with it. To learn more about how the Chemo Mouthpiece™ can help you, visit us online or call (866) 461-7518.