Mouth sores can occur with certain types of chemotherapy drugs and cancer treatments. Because chemotherapy kills rapidly dividing cancer cells, it also destroys other rapidly dividing normal cells, such as the cells that line your mouth, throat, esophagus (food pipe), stomach, and intestine. Patients who are receiving radiation along with chemotherapy, (for example people with head and neck cancer), are at a greater risk of developing mouth sores.

When mouth sores develop, they typically begin 3–10 days after receiving chemotherapy. Often times, mouth sores begin as a burning sensation, followed by redness, and then finally the sores themselves. Should you develop mouth sores, the following tips can help reduce discomfort experienced. If you develop any soreness, burning, redness at any time during your treatment, let your chemotherapy nurse know right away. The sooner you begin proper mouth care, the quicker the symptoms will resolve.

Mouth Care

Good mouth care performed frequently is the best way to prevent mouth sores.

  • Rinse your mouth with the following solution every three hours during the day
    • 1 cup of warm water
    • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • Brush your teeth two or three times per day with a soft toothbrush.
  • Avoid mouthwashes, as they contain alcohol and can cause more dryness and pain. However, if needed, a prescription mouthwash is available.

Food Choices

  • Choose foods that are soft, wet, and easy to swallow such as cooked cereals, mashed potatoes, cottage cheese, macaroni and cheese, baby food, soups, and scrambled eggs.
  • Soften foods with sauces and gravies.
  • Avoid oranges, lemons, grapefruits, alcohol, crunchy foods, and spicy foods.
  • Use a blender to puree cooked foods so that they are easier to eat.
  • Take small bites of food, chew slowly, and sip liquids while you eat.
  • Suck on ice chips or Popsicles.