What Do Mouth Sores from Chemo Look Like?
One of the worst side effects a cancer patient may face is the emergence of mouth sores caused by chemotherapy, a condition called oral mucositis. This debilitating ailment causes painful sores in the mouth, inflammation, possible bleeding and sometimes dryness. Combined, these symptoms can make it very difficult for patients to eat, swallow, or speak normally and can even lead to delays in chemo treatment. So what do mouth sores caused by chemo look like? Keep reading as the team at Chemo Mouthpiece™ tell you more about this painful side effect.
What Causes Mouth Sores from Chemotherapy?
Side effects from chemotherapy are quite common, even if not all patients experience the full range of conditions. Most are familiar with hair loss and nausea that comes with chemo, but other side effects can be even more uncomfortable. Nerve pain is an example, as is oral mucositis, and both can cause extensive pain, but mucositis is arguably the worse of the two because it can drastically impact a patient’s quality of life.
Many wonder what causes these side effects? Sadly, it’s the same drugs used to fight cancer as it grows. The medications used in chemotherapy treatments are specifically designed to track down and destroy fast-growing cells like those found in tumors. Unfortunately, these drugs lack the ability to distinguish friend from foe, and so they damage healthy cells that exhibit cancer-like growth. These cells exist in places like your hair, nails, bone marrow, and mucous membranes – all of which are fair game for chemo drugs. As these toxic chemicals circulate through the body and come into contact with vulnerable tissues like those listed above, they begin to break down the tissues, leading to the familiar side effects.
In the case of oral mucositis, the drugs travel through the blood vessels in the mouth and, upon reaching the membranes that line the oral cavity, begin to break them down, causing sores to form. To date, there is no definitive way to eliminate mucositis symptoms in those who are susceptible, though a few treatment options – and one notable preventative measure – are available; these will be discussed below.
What Do Oral Mucositis Sores Look Like?
A number of ailments can affect the soft tissues of the mouth, most of which are nowhere near as debilitating as oral mucositis; however, some of these conditions may be similar in appearance. If you or someone you know is undergoing chemotherapy and want to be on the lookout for the appearance of chemo mouth sores, you can find out what to look for below:
Here, we see the lips, inner cheeks and tongue of a person with oral mucositis. Notice how the lesions on the tongue are raised and puffy, as well as how they seem joined in places into one large sore. The lips also appear to be dried and cracked, possibly because of a lack of saliva brought about by the mucositis. (Photo credit: American Academy of Oral Medicine)
The ulcer in this picture is located along the inside of the lower lip. As with the sores on the tongue shown above, you can see how the mucositis is concentrated in one area. These sores most commonly present as a raised, swollen, sensitive area, either in one small region (as shown here) or across a greater area within the mouth. (Photo credit: The American Academy of Oral Medicine)
This photo shows more extensive lesions along the sides of the cheeks. This ulceration can extend far back into the oral cavity, even impacting the throat and the patient’s ability to swallow. In most cases, the closer the chemo treatment is to the head or mouth, the worse the mucositis symptoms, though this is not always the case. (Photo credit: ScienceDirect.com, “Oral and Gastrointestinal Mucosal Adverse Effects” by Douglas E. Peterson, Supportive Oncology, 2011)
Preventing Mouth Sores Caused by Chemo
As mentioned above, there is not yet a method of treatment that guarantees an end to mucositis, but one technique in particular has been proven to help lessen this symptom: a treatment called oral cryotherapy. This term refers to a treatment that uses freezing or near-freezing temperatures to affect the body; it’s the same principle that leads people to ice a bruised elbow or twisted ankle. Where oral mucositis is concerned, however, the purpose is a little different, as cryotherapy is primarily used to shrink the blood vessels of the mouth during chemo infusions. By making the vessels smaller, you can limit the access that chemo drugs have to the area, which in turn can limit the severity of oral mucositis.
The Chemo Mouthpiece™ is a specialized cryotherapy device aimed to do just that. By cooling the oral cavity uniformly, the Chemo Mouthpiece™ can provide much more potent cryotherapy treatments than what you might get from ice chips or popsicles; our device can chill the entire mouth by as much as 30 degrees with no mess and minimal effort. Ice chips can be difficult to tolerate, cause even more nausea and can taste terrible. They also do not cover nearly as much surface area.
Oral Cryotherapy Device for Chemo Patients Struggling with Mucositis
The Chemo Mouthpiece™ is more than a simple ice pack; it was specifically designed by engineer and cancer survivor David Yoskowitz to provide powerful relief from chemo mouth sores. Simply freeze the mouthpiece at home before your treatment, bring it with you in the cooler provided and leave it in the mouth during your chemo infusion for effective oral cryotherapy anywhere. To learn more about the Chemo Mouthpiece™ and how it can help you or someone you know, visit us online or call (866) 461-7518 today.