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


    The use of compounded topical anesthetic rinses should be considered carefully relative to the cost of compounding these products versus their actual efficacy.

    Irrigation should be performed before topical medication is applied because removal of debris and saliva allows for better coating of oral tissues and prevents material from accumulating. Frequent rinsing cleans and lubricates tissues, prevents crusting, and palliates painful gingiva and mucosa.

    Systemic analgesics should be administered when topical anesthetic strategies are not sufficient for clinical relief. Opiates are typically used;[26][Level of evidence: II] the combination of chronic indwelling venous catheters and computerized drug administration pumps to provide PCA has significantly increased the effectiveness of controlling severe mucositis pain while lowering the dose and side effects of narcotic analgesics. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that affect platelet adhesion and damage gastric mucosa are contraindicated, especially if thrombocytopenia is present.

    Although mucositis continues to be one of the dose-limiting toxicities of fluorouracil (5-FU), cryotherapy may be an option for preventing oral mucositis. Because 5-FU has a short half-life (5-20 minutes), patients are instructed to swish ice chips in their mouths for 30 minutes, beginning 5 minutes before 5-FU is administered.[41][Level of evidence: I] Oral cryotherapy has been studied in patients receiving high-dose melphalan conditioning regimens used with transplantation;[42,43] further research is needed.

    Many agents and protocols have been promoted for management or prevention of mucositis.[44,45,46] Although not adequately supported by controlled clinical trials, allopurinol mouthwash and vitamin E have been cited as agents that decrease the severity of mucositis. Prostaglandin E2 was not effective as a prophylaxis of oral mucositis following bone marrow transplant, although studies indicate possible efficacy when prostaglandin E2 is administered via a different dosing protocol.

    Current Clinical Trials

    Check NCI's list of cancer clinical trials for U.S. supportive and palliative care trials about mucositis that are now accepting participants. The list of trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

    General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


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    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: May 28, 2015
    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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