Canker sores are one of the most awful side effects of chemotherapy. Some patients never have a moments problem with mouth sores while others suffer from cankers for the entire course of treatment. Mouth sores often form on the lips, gums, inside the cheeks, tongues, floor and roof of the mouth. These painful open sores can affect your eating, drinking, speech and ability to swallow.
The proper treatment of mouth sores is extremely important because patients receiving chemo are susceptible to infection. Since chemotherapy attacks both healthy and cancerous cells in the body, the mouth, with it’s delicate bacterial balance, is often affected. These cankers can bleed and ulcerate, causing considerable pain.
There are many things a chemo patient can do to ease the discomfort of mouth sores. Just like with every chemo side effect that you experience, you need to inform your doctor. Your oncologist is your best source of information for all aspects of your chemotherapy treatment, including dealing with the side effects of chemo.
The following are comfort measures to help ease the pain of mouth sores. Every patient is different so what works for one person might not work for another. Commit to being religious in your mouth care and hopefully, your pain will ease.
How to Manage Mouth Sores from Chemotherapy
Consult with your doctor before beginning chemotherapy. Discuss potential side effects. Many doctors recommend a good cleaning with your dentist and the practice of meticulous dental hygiene leading up to chemo. If your mouth is in the best possible shape, with no chemical or bacterial imbalances, you're less likely to develop cankers.
If you've already begun chemo and are experiencing mouth sores, take to your oncologist. He's often the most knowledgeable source of information on dealing with chemotherapy side effects. He may recommend a medicated mouth rinse to ease the pain and help heal the mouth sores. Remember that there is no sure-fire single treatment to heal your mouth sores. A combination of mouth rinses and good hygiene is most effective.
Eat bland foods. Chemotherapy takes a toll on your body and proper diet is very important. Avoid foods that are rough or coarse, salty or acidic, and spicy. Stay away from citrus fruits. Avoid caffeine. Hot or cold foods may increase your discomfort. Don’t decrease your caloric intake but rather, try to supplement your diet with foods that don’t hurt your mouth. Try yogurt, good old macaroni and cheese, and foods with sauces and bland gravies. If you’re having trouble eating, contact your doctor immediately.
Practice meticulous dental hygiene. Brush your teeth after every meal and at bedtime, but do it carefully. Extremely soft toothbrushes are available (think baby toothbrushes). Choose mild toothpaste such as a type available for canker sore sufferers. Chemotherapy disrupts the chemical and bacteria balance in the mouth so proper cleaning is very important to maintaining that balance in your mouth. Don’t use mouthwash containing alcohol.
Drink 64 ounces of water a day. Many chemo patients complain of a dry mouth. Combat this with water consumption. Also, rinse with cool water before and after every meal.
Rinse with a baking soda rinse. Mix one teaspoon of baking soda with a cup of water and rinse for 30 seconds before a meal. Sometimes this rinse will soothe your mouth sores enough to allow you to eat.
Rinse with salt-water. Mix a small amount of regular table salt with water. This salt-water combination is very similar to the normal rinsing fluids produced by your mouth.
Consider your own comfort. If it hurts to drink, try using a straw. Choose softer foods rather than that hoagie sub you’re just dying to munch on. Cut your food into small bites to make chewing easier. Your mouth sores are probably temporary and will disappear as soon as your chemo treatment ends. Save those crunchy treats for the celebration after you finish your cycle of chemotherapy.
Suck on ice cubes during chemotherapy treatment. This moistens the mouth and lessens the incidence of mouth sores. Make sure to check with your doctor first.
Try applying honey to the sores. For some unexplained reason, honey has great medicinal value. Many patients find that dabbing honey on their canker sores helps ease the pain and also heal the canker quickly. Check with your oncologist first before giving this home remedy a try.
Discuss vitamin supplements such as L-lysine with your doctor. Scientists are currently studying the effects of L-lysine on canker sores. L-lysine is an essential amino acid required for health that is not produced by the body but rather absorbed from food. Some oncologists recommend this supplement to patients before starting chemo. Again, check with your doctor before taking any vitamin supplements.