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Oral Complications of Chemotherapy and Head/Neck Radiation (PDQ®): Supportive care - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Oral Mucositis

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Specific recommendations against specific practices include the following:

  • No systemic glutamine for the prevention of gastrointestinal mucositis.
  • No sucralfate or antibiotic lozenges for radiation-induced mucositis.
  • No granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor mouthwashes.

Oral mucositis in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation patients produces clinically significant toxicities that require multiprofessional interventions.[18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25] The lesion can increase risk of systemic infection,[1] produce clinically significant pain,[26][Level of evidence: II] and promote oral hemorrhage. It can also compromise the upper airway such that endotracheal intubation is required. Use of total parenteral nutrition is often necessary because of the patient's inability to receive enteral nutrition.

Once mucositis has developed, its severity and the patient's hematologic status govern appropriate oral management. Meticulous oral hygiene and palliation of symptoms are essential. Some established guidelines for oral care include oral assessments twice daily for hospitalized patients and frequent oral care (minimum of every 4 hours and at bedtime) that increases in frequency as the severity of mucositis increases.

Oral care protocols generally include atraumatically cleansing the oral mucosa, maintaining lubrication of the lips and oral tissues, and relieving pain and inflammation. Several health professional organizations have produced evidence-based oral mucositis guidelines. These organizations include but are not limited to the following:

  • Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer/International Society of Oral Oncology [17]
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network [27]
  • European Society of Medical Oncology [11]
  • European Oncology Nursing Society
  • The Cochrane Collaboration [28,29]

In many cases, there is similarity in recommendations across the organizations. The Cochrane Collaboration, however, uses a meta-analysis approach and thus provides a unique context for purposes of guideline construction.

Palifermin (Kepivance), also known as keratinocyte growth factor-1, has been approved to decrease the incidence and duration of severe oral mucositis in patients with hematologic cancers undergoing conditioning with high-dose chemotherapy, with or without radiation therapy, followed by hematopoietic stem cell rescue.[9][Level of evidence: I] The standard dosing regimen is three daily doses before conditioning and three additional daily doses starting on day 0 (day of transplant). Palifermin has also been shown in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to reduce the incidence of oral mucositis in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer treated with fluorouracil-based chemotherapy.[30][Level of evidence: I] In addition, a single dose of palifermin prevented severe oral mucositis in patients who had sarcoma and were receiving doxorubicin-based chemotherapy.[31][Level of evidence: I]

In two randomized, placebo-controlled trials conducted in head/neck cancer patients undergoing postoperative chemoradiotherapy and in patients receiving definitive chemoradiotherapy for locally advanced head/neck cancer, intravenous palifermin administered weekly for 8 weeks decreased severe oral mucositis,[32,33][Level of evidence: I] as graded by providers using standard toxicity assessments and during multicycle chemotherapy.[31] Patient-reported outcomes related to mouth and throat soreness and to treatment breaks or compliance were not significantly different between arms in either trial. In one study, opioid analgesic use was also not significantly different between arms.[33]

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WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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