- Cancer Information
- Cancer treatment
- Radiation therapy
- Managing radiation therapy side effects
- Mouth and throat problems
- How to relieve mouth and throat problems
How to relieve mouth and throat problems
- Have a dental check-up before treatment begins with a dentist who specialises in the effect radiation therapy has on teeth. Your radiation oncologist can provide a referral.
- Keep your mouth moist in between treatments by sucking on ice chips and sipping cool drinks. Carry a bottle of water with you.
- Ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist for information about artificial saliva to moisten your mouth.
- If you have a dry mouth, you may need to avoid rough, crunchy or dry foods (e.g. chips, nuts, toast, dry biscuits); salty or spicy foods that sting your mouth; or very hot or cold food. A dietitian can suggest ways to modify the texture of foods so they are easier to swallow.
- Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol or caffeinated drinks, and consuming citrus or tangy tomato-based food and juice, as they will irritate your mouth and make dryness worse.
- If chewing and swallowing are painful, try to have more liquids or soft food. Talk to a dietitian, who can suggest nourishing foods that will not hurt your mouth, or see Nutrition and cancer.
- If you have trouble swallowing, ask your doctor for a referral to a speech pathologist.
- To manage taste changes, try different ways of preparing food. For example, add lemon juice to meat and vegetables, marinate foods or add herbs.
- Talk to your doctor if eating is uncomfortable or difficult. If you are in pain, pain medicine may help with swallowing.
- Rinse your mouth regularly using an alcohol-free mouthwash recommended by your doctor or dentist.
- Saltwater is a natural disinfectant – you can make a saltwater mouthwash at home by dissolving ¼ teaspoon of salt into 1 cup of warm water. Rinse your mouth with plain water afterwards.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Dr Madhavi Chilkuri, Radiation Oncologist, Townsville Cancer Centre, The Townsville Hospital, and Dean, RANZCR Faculty of Radiation Oncology, QLD; Polly Baldwin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Patricia Hanley, Consumer; Prof Michael Hofman, Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging Physician, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Leanne Hoy, Cancer Nurse Consultant, GenesisCare, VIC; Sharon King, Accredited Practising Dietitian, TAS; Dr Yoo Young (Dominique) Lee, Radiation Oncology Consultant, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Dr Wendy Phillips, Senior Medical Physicist, Department of Radiation Oncology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Katrina Rech, Radiation Therapist and Quality Systems Manager, GenesisCare, SA. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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