What is Oral Mucositis?
Though there are a considerable number of unpleasant side effects linked to chemotherapy, oral mucositis still manages to top many patients’ lists for a very simple reason: it is an incredibly uncomfortable condition that interferes in everyday life. The loss of hair may be more visible, nausea more persistent, but the sores and inflammation that characterize oral mucositis affects a patient’s quality of life so intensely and on so many fronts that it can have wide-ranging implications for a patient’s overall health and treatment schedule.
But what exactly causes oral mucositis, and how can it be stopped?
What Causes Oral Mucositis?
As with many of the issues that cancer patients must deal with, oral mucositis is caused by the treatment of the disease, rather than by the illness itself. Because chemotherapy drugs lack the ability to distinguish between diseased tissue and healthy tissue, they attack both in equal measure, killing the cancerous cells along with some healthy cells.
As the drugs are administered, they circulate through the body, entering the mouth through blood vessels and promptly damaging the tissues there. The harm these drugs do to the oral cavity manifests as oral mucositis, a debilitating condition that makes even the most mundane of daily tasks painful while hurting treatment outcomes and causing a spike in medical costs.
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Mucositis
Oral mucositis is a very common side effect of chemotherapy treatments, occurring in as many as 80 percent of high-dose chemotherapy patients (Source). Its symptoms are easily recognizable, usually featuring sores and ulcers in the mouth, difficulty swallowing or speaking, swelling, inflammation, and even possible infections. The combined weight of these effects often forces a patient to stop or limit eating and drinking, sometimes even necessitating a feeding tube or IV.
In especially severe cases, patients must delay subsequent treatments due to the direct effects of the mucositis or the danger posed by associated weight loss. These delays can hinder patients’ recovery and hurt their overall prognosis, two things that any patient would want to avoid at all costs. Not only are these effects frustrating in the extreme, but they can also lead to longer periods of hospitalization and an increase in medical bills that are already sure to be considerable.
Common Preventative Measures and Treatments for Oral Mucositis
The traditional treatments for oral mucositis – both preventative and reactive – used in hospitals are surprisingly simple. To mitigate the severity of the condition, nurses usually distribute ice chips or popsicles to patients who are receiving specific chemotherapy treatments. The use of cold or frozen aids operates based on a principle known as vasoconstriction, the tightening or shrinking of blood vessels.
In essence, the thinking behind vasoconstriction is that causing the blood vessels in the mouth to constrict will reduce blood flow to the area, thereby limiting the ability of the toxic chemotherapy drugs to reach the oral cavity. Fewer drugs in the tissue translate to less severe symptoms, though it is not yet possible to completely prevent mucositis from occurring in all patients.
Still, this treatment has proven fairly effective, but the use of ice chips and popsicles has led to some inconsistent results for patients across the country. The reason for this is simple: they don’t cool the entire mouth uniformly, a critical limitation that allows mucositis to continue to form. Ice chips tend to just sit in the bottom of the mouth, cooling that area but no others; popsicles may be able to reach one side of the mouth or the other, but it can’t cover the entire area effectively. In the end, patients wind up with oral mucositis regardless.
How the Chemo Mouthpiece™ Works
The Chemo Mouthpiece™ was designed by a cancer survivor to specifically address the shortcomings of more common but less effective methods of cooling the mouth, such as ice chips. By cooling the entire oral cavity uniformly, the Chemo Mouthpiece™ is able to induce vasoconstriction – and therefore mitigate the symptoms of oral mucositis – throughout the entire mouth.
The way the mouthpiece works is simple; just put it in your freezer for 6 hours upon receiving your Patient Kit and it is ready for use. At its center, there is a core of freshwater that freezes solid and serves to keep the device cool. Around that core, there is an outer section filled with saltwater, which can reach freezing temperatures without solidifying. Two tubes run through the center of the device to facilitate comfortable breathing while it is in use. Simply put the end of the Chemo Mouthpiece™ in your mouth during chemotherapy treatments and let it effectively chill your entire oral cavity, significantly reducing the severity of any oral mucositis in the process.
Innovative, Easy-to-Use Device to Combat Oral Mucositis During Chemotherapy
The Chemo Mouthpiece™ was invented by someone with firsthand experience dealing with oral mucositis, an engineer and cancer survivor named David Yoskowitz who knew there had to be a better way to deal with this debilitating issue. This device is simple, effective, and easy to use, whether you are at home or at your infusion. It even comes with an insulated cooler for convenient transportation. To learn more about the Chemo Mouthpiece™ and how it can help you or someone you love, click here to order.