8 Ways Chemotherapy Can Affect Your Mouth and Throat

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Chemotherapy is known for having an array of adverse side effects, which can include hair loss, dry skin, and diarrhea. But did you know that it can also affect your mouth, nose, and throat? Unfortunately, it’s true — but the good news is there are things you can do to combat these issues. If you’re scheduled to begin cancer treatment, take a moment to browse through these potential throat and mouth side effects of chemotherapy. Knowing ahead of time what you might be facing may help you take the necessary steps toward preventing further problems.

8. Mouth Sores

Mucositis, a condition which is commonly referred to as mouth sores, is the inflammation of the mucous membranes lining the digestive tract from the mouth to the stomach. It can be a common side effect of chemotherapy. While preventing mucositis completely may not be possible, you can reduce its severity by keeping your mouth clean and moist. Avoid substances that can cause sores such as acidic drinks, mouthwash containing alcohol, and hot or spicy food. For treatment, your doctor may recommend a topical solution, vitamin E supplements, antacids, or prescription medication.

7. Sore Throat

The mucous lining of your throat may become inflamed, or your treatment may harm the tissues and cells in your mouth and throat, leading to a sore throat. You can help prevent further sores, which can be caused by rough or dry food, by eating foods that are soft or wet in texture. Use sauces or gravy to help moisten your food and make it easier to swallow, or try blending your food. Stay away from salty, sugary, or spicy foods, and drink plenty of water. You can also suck on lozenges to help moisten your throat.

Woman having a sore throat lying in bed

Photo: Adobe Stock/Photographee.eu

6. Dry Mouth

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, happens when the body is not able to make enough saliva. This can be improved by drinking fluids often. Focus on water, but other beverages can help keep your mouth moist. Just like how a lozenge can keep your throat from getting dry and sore, a lozenge can also mitigate mouth dryness. Or you can try sucking on sugar-free candies or ice chips. Your doctor might also be able to prescribe a medication that can help moisten your mouth and throat.

5. Tooth Decay

One of the side effects of both chemotherapy and dry mouth is tooth decay. Before beginning any treatments, first see a dentist. If you have any cavities, you can take care of them first. During treatment, clean your teeth regularly and meticulously. Your mouth may be sensitive, so consider using a soft-bristled brush, as well as a Waterpik water-flosser.


Photo: Pixabay

Click ‘next’ to read on and learn more about the potential throat and mouth side effects of chemotherapy.

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