MucositisOverview

Mucositis is when your mouth or gut is sore and inflamed. It's a common side effect of chemotherapy and radiotherapy for cancer. It can be very unpleasant, but usually stops in a few weeks.

Things you can do to help

If you're having cancer treatment, there are some things you can do to help prevent and ease mucositis.

Do

  • brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush at least twice a day
  • floss once a day
  • rinse your mouth with warm water (or water mixed with a bit of salt) several times a day
  • suck on crushed ice or ice lollies
  • eat soft, moist foods (try adding gravy or sauces to meals)
  • drink plenty of water
  • chew sugar-free gum (this can help keep your mouth moist)

Don't

  • do not use mouthwashes from shops without speaking to a pharmacist, nurse or doctor – they might irritate your mouth
  • do not eat crunchy, rough or sharp foods like crisps
  • do not eat hot, spicy or salty foods
  • do not eat acidic foods like tomatoes, oranges or lemons
  • do not drink hot drinks (like tea and coffee), fizzy drinks or alcohol
  • do not smoke
  • do not take painkillers without speaking to a pharmacist, nurse or doctor

Tell your care team if you're having cancer treatment and get:

  • a sore mouth
  • mouth ulcers
  • difficulty swallowing, eating or talking
  • a dry mouth and lips
  • diarrhoea, bleeding from your bottom, or pain when pooing

These are symptoms of mucositis. They usually begin around 1 to 2 weeks after starting cancer treatment.

Treatments for mucositis

Mucositis should get better within a few weeks of finishing cancer treatment.

Your care team can offer treatments to ease it, such as:

  • mouthwashes that clean, numb and protect your mouth
  • painkillers
  • sprays or gels to keep your mouth moist (saliva substitutes)
  • medicines to stop diarrhoea or reduce soreness inside your bottom (rectum)

Talking to others can help

You may also find it useful to chat to people in a similar situation or who have had cancer treatment before.

Ask your care team about support groups in your area.

You could also try an online forum like:

Page last reviewed: 22/11/2017
Next review due: 22/11/2020