Chemotherapy and radiation therapy cause inflammation of the tongue, lips, mouth, throat, and gastrointestinal tract. This often leads to mouth sores and discomfort when eating, drinking, and sleeping.
Some cancer treatments lower the body's ability to fight infection. This makes it important to take good care of the mouth to avoid infection. Swelling in the mouth and tongue may also make it difficult to swallow and breathe.
Call the clinic or hospital right away if any of these symptoms occur:
- Blood in the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Mouth dryness
- Uncontrolled pain
- White patches or sores on the lips, gums, tongue, or mouth
What patients can do:
- Avoid alcoholic drinks.
- Avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol or peroxide.
- Avoid spicy, sour, or crunchy foods.
- Keep flossing at least once a day, but avoid areas that are bleeding or sore.
- Rinse the mouth with warm salt water every hour or as desired (do not swallow).
- Suck on hard candy or chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production.
- Take pain medication as instructed by the doctor.
- Eat foods that are soft and easy to swallow. A registered dietitian in HCI's Wellness-Survivorship Center can suggest some good choices.
- Try moisturizing mouth rinses such as Biotene (found at local stores).
- Use a toothbrush with soft bristles.
- Use lip balm.