How Long Does It Take for Oral Mucositis to Go Away?
The list of painful or unpleasant side effects linked to cancer treatments is long, but oral mucositis manages to top many patients’ lists as the most debilitating of these effects. Hair loss may be more visible; damage to the immune system may be more perilous, but oral mucositis can be so painful and can lead to so many complications that it stands as one of the worst parts of cancer treatments.
How long does oral mucositis last, and is there anything that can provide relief from oral mucositis symptoms? Continue reading as the team at Chemo Mouthpiece™ answer those very questions.
The Cause of Oral Mucositis
The drugs used in chemotherapy treatments are effective at attacking cancer cells because they target rapid cell division in the body — such as that exhibited by a fast-growing tumor, for instance — and break down the cells in that area. Unfortunately, these drugs cannot tell healthy tissue from diseased tissue, and so it attacks all parts of the body in which cells quickly multiply: the mouth, hair, nails, and bone marrow. These attacks manifest as the familiar side effects of chemo — hair loss, nausea, compromised immune system, and mucositis, to name a few.
Oral mucositis affects as many as 40% of patients undergoing standard chemo treatments and up to 80% of those undergoing high-dose chemotherapy. (Source) It is known to be especially destructive because of the complications it can lead to; one of the chief concerns regarding patients with oral mucositis is that they are more vulnerable to viral, fungal, and bacterial infections because of the constant presence of open sores in the mouth. These infections can seriously impede a patient’s recovery by forcing doctors to delay or halt treatments altogether, and they carry a number of potential financial costs as well.
One study published in the journal Dental Clinics of North America in 2008 outlines the significance of a one-point increase in the severity of oral mucositis symptoms; the condition is generally judged on the OMAS scale, which rates it from 0-4. That one point of severity led to an average of one day of additional fever, 2.6 more days of narcotic painkillers, 2.7 more days of IV nutrition, 2.6 more days in the hospital, a 2.1-fold increase in a patient’s chances of developing an infection, and a 3.9-fold increase in a patient’s 100-day risk of mortality. All told, the economic impact of these complications comes out to more than $25,000 of additional medical expenses on top of the steep costs of the treatments themselves.
How Long Do Mouth Sores Last After Chemo?
Generally speaking, patients will begin to see the symptoms of oral mucositis appear about a week after the beginning of their chemotherapy treatment, and they can be expected to last for one or two weeks after treatments have ended. Those who received radiation in addition to chemo, or instead of chemo, will probably need two to four weeks to recover from their mucositis symptoms.
Patients who want to lessen the impact of their mucositis symptoms can prepare by addressing any issues involving oral hygiene before the treatments start. See your dentist and make sure to resolve any gingivitis, pulp infections, or any other conditions that may worsen with chemo or radiation.
It is also important to keep your mouth clean while you have open sores, as failure to do so could result in an infection that will not only be painful but will also further extend your healing process. Medicated mouthwashes or homemade solutions containing salt or baking soda can be helpful for removing food debris and keeping the mouth lubricated and relatively healthy.
Limiting Oral Mucositis with Cryotherapy
Though it is not yet possible to guarantee the prevention of oral mucositis in those who are susceptible, patients can nonetheless take steps to limit the severity of mucositis symptoms before they appear. The primary method of accomplishing this is through the use of cryotherapy, which refers to treatments that employ freezing or near-freezing temperatures to change the body’s tissues. When applied to the inside of the mouth, the cold temperatures shrink the blood vessels (vasoconstriction), thereby limiting the chemo drugs’ access to the area; oncology nurses distribute ice chips and popsicles for this very reason.
Ice chips can only do so much, however; a better form of cryotherapy is available with one simple device: the Chemo Mouthpiece™. This innovative ice pack reaches every corner of the oral cavity, cooling the entire mouth by as much as 30 degrees and shrinking the blood vessels in all the area’s vulnerable tissues. This makes for a much more effective method of cryotherapy than what is offered by bits of ice or popsicles.
Prevent Mouth Sores Through Cryotherapy Treatments
Cancer can bring drastic changes to a patient’s life, most of them unpleasant. By reducing the severity of oral mucositis, however, the Chemo Mouthpiece™ helps patients limit the side effects of their treatment and improve their quality of life. Don’t rely on ice chips or popsicles to prevent mouth sores; try something more effective. The easy-to-use Chemo Mouthpiece™ can cool your entire mouth, making it the superior choice. It is also more tolerable than ice chips for those with sensitive teeth.
To learn more about our device and how it can help you during your chemotherapy treatments, visit us online or call (866) 461-7518 today.