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

Table 1. Prevalence for Oral Complications with Cancer Therapies: Oral Care Study Group Systematic Reviews, MASCC/ISOO continued...

The most common oral complications related to cancer therapies are mucositis, infection, salivary gland dysfunction, taste dysfunction, and pain. These complications can lead to secondary complications such as dehydration, dysgeusia, and malnutrition. In myelosuppressed cancer patients, the oral cavity can also be a source of systemic infection. Radiation of the head and neck can irreversibly injure oral mucosa, vasculature, muscle, and bone, resulting in xerostomia, rampant dental caries, trismus, soft tissue necrosis, and osteonecrosis.

Severe oral toxicities can compromise delivery of optimal cancer therapy protocols. For example, dose reduction or treatment schedule modifications may be necessary to allow for resolution of oral lesions. In cases of severe oral morbidity, the patient may no longer be able to continue cancer therapy; treatment is then usually discontinued. These disruptions in dosing caused by oral complications can directly affect patient survivorship.

Management of oral complications of cancer therapy includes identification of high-risk populations, patient education, initiation of pretreatment interventions, and timely management of lesions. Assessment of oral status and stabilization of oral disease before cancer therapy are critical to overall patient care. Care should be both preventive and therapeutic to minimize risk for oral and associated systemic complications.

Future research targeted at developing technologies is needed to:

  • Reduce incidence and severity of oral mucositis.
  • Improve infection management.
  • Protect salivary gland function.
  • Minimize risk of chronic sequelae.

Development of new technologies to prevent cancer therapy–induced complications, especially oral mucositis, could substantially reduce the risk of oral pain, oral and systemic infections, and number of days in the hospital; and could improve quality of life and reduce health care costs. New technologies could also provide a setting in which novel classes of chemotherapeutic drugs, used at increased doses, could lead to enhanced cancer cure rates and durability of disease remission.

As has been noted, it is essential that a multidisciplinary approach be used for oral management of the cancer patient before, during, and after cancer treatment. This collaboration is pivotally important for the advancement of basic, clinical, and translational research associated with oral complications of current and emerging cancer therapies. The pathobiologic complexity of oral complications and the ever-expanding science base of clinical management require this comprehensive interdisciplinary approach.

In this summary, unless otherwise stated, evidence and practice issues as they relate to adults are discussed. The evidence and application to practice related to children may differ significantly from information related to adults. When specific information about the care of children is available, it is summarized under its own heading.

References:

  1. Lalla RV, Brennan MT, Schubert MM: Oral complications of cancer therapy. In: Yagiela JA, Dowd FJ, Johnson BS, et al., eds.: Pharmacology and Therapeutics for Dentistry. 6th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier, 2011, pp 782-98.
  2. Keefe DM, Schubert MM, Elting LS, et al.: Updated clinical practice guidelines for the prevention and treatment of mucositis. Cancer 109 (5): 820-31, 2007.
  3. Migliorati CA, Woo SB, Hewson I, et al.: A systematic review of bisphosphonate osteonecrosis (BON) in cancer. Support Care Cancer 18 (8): 1099-106, 2010.
  4. Hovan AJ, Williams PM, Stevenson-Moore P, et al.: A systematic review of dysgeusia induced by cancer therapies. Support Care Cancer 18 (8): 1081-7, 2010.
  5. Lalla RV, Latortue MC, Hong CH, et al.: A systematic review of oral fungal infections in patients receiving cancer therapy. Support Care Cancer 18 (8): 985-92, 2010.
  6. Elad S, Zadik Y, Hewson I, et al.: A systematic review of viral infections associated with oral involvement in cancer patients: a spotlight on Herpesviridea. Support Care Cancer 18 (8): 993-1006, 2010.
  7. Hong CH, Napeñas JJ, Hodgson BD, et al.: A systematic review of dental disease in patients undergoing cancer therapy. Support Care Cancer 18 (8): 1007-21, 2010.
  8. Peterson DE, Doerr W, Hovan A, et al.: Osteoradionecrosis in cancer patients: the evidence base for treatment-dependent frequency, current management strategies, and future studies. Support Care Cancer 18 (8): 1089-98, 2010.
  9. Bensadoun RJ, Riesenbeck D, Lockhart PB, et al.: A systematic review of trismus induced by cancer therapies in head and neck cancer patients. Support Care Cancer 18 (8): 1033-8, 2010.
  10. Epstein JB, Hong C, Logan RM, et al.: A systematic review of orofacial pain in patients receiving cancer therapy. Support Care Cancer 18 (8): 1023-31, 2010.
  11. Jensen SB, Pedersen AM, Vissink A, et al.: A systematic review of salivary gland hypofunction and xerostomia induced by cancer therapies: prevalence, severity and impact on quality of life. Support Care Cancer 18 (8): 1039-60, 2010.
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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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