How Long Does Mucositis Last After Chemo?
Cancer is a health threat to millions around the world, but even this frightening disease can seem tame in comparison to some of the side effects that accompany its treatments. Patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation are likely to see a range of unpleasant developments, including hair loss, nausea, nerve pain, and mouth sores — all of which appear in addition to the symptoms of cancer itself. Together, these conditions can have a serious impact on a patient’s quality of life, leading many to seek relief from chemotherapy side effects.
Mouth sores are an especially debilitating side effect of chemo treatment. They can create such a vast amount of complications and can even cause a stop in treatment. So how long do these sores last after chemotherapy? Keep reading to find out.
What Causes Oral Mucositis After Chemo?
It’s no secret that chemotherapy can have more than a few detrimental effects on a patient, even as it seeks to destroy their cancerous tissues. These side effects appear because of the medications used in chemo target all types of cells that multiply quickly. This is the reason they are used to battle fast-growing tumors, but they are unable to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy forms of rapid cell division. The cells in your mouth, hair, nails, and bone marrow all divide rapidly, so they also attract the attention of these drugs — thus the familiar side effects of chemotherapy.
As the chemo drugs circulate through your system, they travel along the blood vessels in your tongue, cheeks, and soft palate, eventually reaching the mouth’s vulnerable mucous membranes. Upon arrival, the drugs begin to break down these tissues, causing the ulcers, sores, pain, bleeding, and inflammation that together constitute oral mucositis. This condition is considered by many cancer survivors, to be the most unpleasant of the many side effects associated with chemo, largely because it can lead to some very costly and damaging complications.
The presence of open sores in the mouths of patients whose immune systems have been compromised by chemo can leave those patients vulnerable to serious infections that can delay further treatments and hurt their overall prognosis. In addition, the pain of chewing and swallowing that many patients experience can lead to the consumption of less food, which can eventually develop into malnutrition or dehydration, either of which can also impact a patient’s treatment and recovery.
In fact, a study published in 2009 revealed that a single-point increase in the severity of oral mucositis (the condition is generally graded on a scale of 0 to 4) can lead to additional days of fever, IV nutrition, narcotic pain medications, and hospitalization, as well as a more than two-fold increase in the risk of “significant infection” and an almost four-fold increase in a patient’s risk of death. The financial toll of these complications? An average of more than $25,000 in medical bills, on top of the already substantial costs of cancer treatments and medical care.
How Long Do Mouth Sores Last?
The duration of oral mucositis symptoms can vary from person to person, but the initial symptoms generally appear about a week after chemo treatment begins and can remain for approximately two weeks after the entire course of therapy has ended. The recovery time for patients who have undergone radiation can be substantially longer, however, and some oral side effects — changes in taste or saliva output, for example — can linger for two to three months. For the most part, though, chemotherapy patients should see their oral mucositis clear up within a few weeks after the last treatment. Anyone who experiences symptoms lasting a month or longer should consult a healthcare professional immediately.
How to Prevent Oral Mucositis Caused by Chemotherapy
It is an unfortunate truth that no product or treatment has yet emerged that is able to completely block oral mucositis following chemotherapy, but one treatment, in particular, has shown a considerable ability to limit its severity: cryotherapy. This treatment relies on the application of freezing or near-freezing temperatures to affect the body; it’s the reason why professional football players take ice baths after a hard game, and it’s why a fighter might put a bag of frozen vegetables over a black eye.
When preventing oral mucositis, however, the aim is a little different: instead of treating symptoms after an injury, the goal is to use cold objects to shrink the blood vessels of the mouth, limiting the ability of chemo drugs to reach vulnerable tissues. Doctors and nurses do this by giving patients ice chips or popsicles to cool their mouths during treatments, but these are imperfect vehicles for effective cryotherapy because they only reach a small area of the mouth.
Instead, consider the cooling power of the Chemo Mouthpiece™, an ice pack specifically designed to chill the entire oral cavity during chemo treatments. This oral cryotherapy device is a more effective method than ice chips or popsicles, and it can help mitigate the appearance of mucositis symptoms.
Cryotherapy Device for Chemo Patients with Oral Mucositis
Battling cancer can be the most daunting experience of a person’s life, especially when you consider the many side effects that come with chemo and radiation treatments. Assistance is available, however: the Chemo Mouthpiece™ can deliver effective cryotherapy during treatment to help reduce the effects of chemo on the mouth’s sensitive tissues. To learn more about the Chemo Mouthpiece™ and how it can help you or a loved one, visit us online or call (866) 461-7518 today.