Mouth health and cancer treatment
Some cancer treatments cause side effects in the mouth (oral) area. This information will help you, your family and friends understand more about the mouth changes you may experience and how to take care of your mouth before, during and after treatment. Not all cancer treatments cause mouth changes.
Learn more about:
- How treatment affects the mouth
- Taking care of your mouth before treatment
- Oral side effects caused by cancer treatments
- Oral mucositis and saliva changes
- Mouth care during and after treatment
- How carers can help
How treatment affects the mouth
Many types of cancer treatments can cause side effects that affect the mouth area. For example:
- some chemotherapy and targeted therapy drugs can damage healthy cells in the mouth, causing mouth sores or infections
- radiation therapy to the head, neck or upper chest area may injure cells in the mouth and salivary glands, or cause changes to the strength of the muscles and nerves used in swallowing
- surgery to the head and neck area can affect the ability to chew and swallow.
Having ongoing problems with your mouth can be difficult to cope with. Taking care of your mouth before, during and after treatment will help protect your teeth, mouth lining and gums, reduce discomfort, and help the mouth area heal more quickly. Most mouth problems gradually improve and go away after treatment is over. In some cases, they may be permanent and need long-term care.
Find a dentist who understands the effects of treatment and get advice for the health of your teeth long term.— Julie
Podcast for people affected by cancer
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
- Caring for Someone with Cancer Download PDF442kB
- Understanding Chemotherapy Download PDF383kB
- Understanding Radiation Therapy Download PDF423kB
- Understanding Surgery Download PDF450kB
- Caring for Someone with Cancer ebook Download ePUB1.16MB
- Understanding Chemotherapy ebook Download ePUB1.01MB
- Understanding Radiation Therapy ebook Download ePUB1001kB
- Understanding Surgery ebook Download ePUB664kB
A/Prof Sharon Liberali, Specialist, Special Needs Dentistry, and Director Special Needs Unit, Adelaide Dental Hospital, SA Dental Service, SA; Cecilia Barling, Consumer; Dr Bena Brown, Principal Allied Health Research Fellow in Cancer, and Advanced Speech Pathologist (Oncology), Princess Alexandra Hospital and Centre for Functioning and Health Research, QLD; Lisa Castle-Burns, Head and Neck Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Merran Findlay, Executive Research Lead – Cancer Nutrition, Oncology Specialist Dietitian, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW; Jasmin Mazis, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Rick Pointon, Consumer; Prof David Wiesenfeld, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, and Director, Head and Neck Tumour Stream, The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Sue-Ching Yeoh, Oral Medicine Specialist, Sydney Oral Medicine, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW.
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