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Mucositis – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Written by Dr.Mary

What is Mucositis?

Mucositis or also known as oral and gastrointestinal mucositis is a condition that develops right after the start of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. These therapies are indicated for patients with cancer, and those affected with mucositis are cancer patients. It has been reported that this oral condition develops right after 5 to 10 days of chemotherapy, while it take 14 days to appear after starting radiotherapy.

The condition generally causes pain and start of an inflammatory process to our mucous membranes; mouth, stomach and anal area. This is due to the fact that the soft layer of tissues is sensitive.

Types of Mucositis

There are two types of mucositis:

Oral mucositis

This occurs in the mouth and can be very painful that it impedes vital functions of the mouth. Mouth sores are the developed form of oral mucositis.

Gastrointestinal mucositis

This shall involve the gastric system that would predominantly cause diarrhea.

According to reports, this condition is quite common because of the fact that there are a great number of cancer patients who undergo treatment. In order to diagnose such condition, we need to assess the oral membranes of the client. An ultrasound may be necessary in order to diagnose for gastrointestinal mucositis. CT scan would also provide good picture of the affectation of the gastric mucositis.

Mucositis Symptoms

The symptoms of mucositis would vary with the area of affection:

Oral mucositis

The condition would affect the oral mucous membranes of the mouth. The person shall feel soreness, most triggered by eating or drinking hot or spicy foods. The affected areas of the oral membranes are the tongue, insides of the cheeks and the lips. Ulcer formation cannot be avoided that it results to difficulty in speaking, drinking and chewing food.

Gastrointestinal mucositis


This would include diarrhea, melena (blood in stool), dysphagia (difficulty swallowing food), nausea and bloating. These symptoms persist when the patient is undergoing radiotherapy.

Mucositis Causes

The cause for mucositis is from cancer treatment; chemotherapy and radiotherapy. These mentioned treatments causes mucositis because of killing the cancers cells with the tendency of harm the healthy cells. The area of affectation is the mucous membranes, as this is noted as sensitive and susceptible to damage. The effect of these cancer treatments is damaging the DNA cells of the lining of our mucous membranes. As this occur, the damaged cells would eventually release toxic chemicals that further damage the mucous membranes. There would also be a quick affectation of the neighboring areas, which is why spread of the condition is fast.

Another form of treatment that causes mucositis is biological therapy. This treatment course involves use of protein inhibitor that avoids cancer cell growth.

Those at risk for developing such condition are the following:

  • Young age – Most especially the youngsters who are undergoing cancer treatment at a young age are quite susceptible of developing the condition.
  • Oral hygiene deficiency – Those who leave the mouth dry after a cancer therapy would make one susceptible for mucositis. Not brushing the teeth regularly can also precipitate mucositis development.
  • Higher dose of cancer therapy – Those who receive a higher dose of treatment are at risk of developing mucositis.

Mucositis Treatment

Treatment for mucositis would include the following:

Oral care

Right after the treatment, make sure that one checks his or oral membranes. When signs of mucositis are noted, informing the doctor can help avoid the development of the condition. It is highly advised that the one should brush his or her teeth every after meal. One should not use heavy bristled brushes and should resolve to soft bristled brushes. Flossing may not be recommended as a regular hygiene practice, for it may damage the gums. It is only advised when it is necessary. Rinsing the mouth for about 5 to 6 times a day is recommended, but one should not use highly acidic rinses or that contains alcohol.


These are recommended in order to lessen the discomfort that one is experiencing from the mucositis. NSAIDs are provided and are good pain relievers.

Low-level laser therapy

This is a form of treatment that helps reduce oral mucositis. This shall involve emission of low-energy lasers to the affected area.

Increase oral fluid intake

This is recommended most especially to patients who are suffering from diarrhea. This is because of their susceptibility from dehydration.


The recommended diet for those who suffer from mucositis includes low-residue. This is to reduce the frequency of the stools. One can eat cereals, white rice, noodles, cooked veggies, lean meat & fish and eggs.

Loperamide or octreotide

This is provided to clients who suffer from diarrhea. Octreotide is much recommended for those who do not respond from loperamide treatment.

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