Chemotherapy affects different people in different ways. Some people experience very little side effects while others may have more.
One of the horrible side effects of chemotherapy that we were unaware of is mucositis. Mucositis is swelling inside the mouth and throat that can lead to painful ulcers and mouth sores. This is also a possible side effect of radiation therapy to the head and neck area. The symptoms usually appear 7 to 10 days after starting chemotherapy.
After my Mom’s second chemo treatment, her mouth started getting sore and she started developing mouth ulcers. Looking back at old Whatsapp messages, I remember being in a state of panic and worry. My biggest worry was my Mom not being able to eat or drink to keep her strength up. I instantly turned to my good old friend Google and started searching for ways to deal with mucositis.
The best way to manage mouth sores is to prevent them or treat them early. These are the suggestions that I found for my Mom:
Ice chips or ice cubes. Sucking on ice chips immediately before and during chemotherapy treatment can reduce the possibility of mucositis. The rapid cooling from the ice reduces the blood flow to the mouth and in turn reduces the amount of drug reaching the mucous membranes in the mouth. From then onwards I have been telling my Mom to suck lekker licks (a South African term for ice lollies) after each chemo treatment to help reduce the swelling in her mouth. A friend also suggested ginger beer ice cubes which is another great idea.
Oral care. It is wise to take good care of your mouth during cancer treatment. Brush your teeth after eating, floss gently, rinse or gargle with a solution of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and salt water. Try half a teaspoon of bicarb and half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of water. Avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol. Another friend told me about power flossers which was originally suggested by a doctor. This can be used with warm water and salt to jet wash your mouth extra clean.
Eating foods. Avoid spicy, salty, acidic or course foods. Choose foods that require little or no chewing. If possible also choose foods that are high in protein and calories to keep energy levels up.
L-Glutamine. Powdered glutamine is also said to help with mucositis. Make sure you buy pure L-Glutamine powder. Mix 10 grams of powder with a small glass of water or juice. Swish and gargle in your mouth for 30-60 seconds and swallow. Repeat this 3 times a day every 8 hours. It is suggested to start this glutamine therapy at the beginning of chemo treatment. Please see the link below for more details on this.
Please don’t suffer in silence. If you are experiencing any side effects then get in touch with your oncology department and tell them what’s happening. They may need to alter your treatment plan and possibly do tests or in my Mom’s case, prescribe antibiotics or pain medication.
“When someone has cancer, the whole
family and everyone who loves them
does, too.” – Terri Clark