Learn about mucositis (mouth pain and sores) in people with cancer in this guide from The ONE Group (Oncology – Nutrition – Exercise) at Penn State College of Medicine.
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What you should know
What is mucositis?
Mucositis, or mouth pain and sores, is often a side effect of certain chemotherapy drugs and radiotherapy to the head and/or neck area.
The pain and sores are caused by an infection due to the cancer treatment, which can influence eating habits. The cancer treatment kills the fast-dividing cells like the cancer cells, but also the oral mucosa. Mucositis can cause pain during eating, swallowing and even speaking.
- White or red patches in the mouth
- Non-healing sore or blister
- Pain in mouth or throat
- Swelling or lumps inside mouth
What you can do: Improving your eating when you have mucositis
Tips to improve your eating behavior
- Try freezing fruits and suck on frozen fruit pops, fruit ice or ice chips.
- Eat soft, creamy foods.
- Blend and moisten foods that are dry or solid. Mix them in with soups or sauces, gravies and casseroles.
- Puree or liquefy foods in a blender to make them easier to swallow.
- Choose lukewarm or cold foods that are soothing.
- Drink through a straw to bypass mouth sores.
- Eat high-protein, high-calorie foods to speed healing.
Other lifestyle suggestions
- Rinse your mouth regularly with a salt, baking soda and water solution to prevent infections. Gargle with a mixture to relieve a sore throat, but don’t swallow it.
- Your doctor can prescribe a “swish-and-swallow” numbing mouthwash. Ask about this.
- Avoid using mouthwashes that contain alcohol.
Foods to avoid
- Rough-textured or hard foods
- Tart, acidic or salty foods
- Spicy foods
- Really warm foods or drinks
- Crackers and hard-crust breads
- Potato chips, pretzels, popcorn and snack chips
- Citrus fruit and juices
- Tomato juice
- Raw vegetables
- Sour milk products
- Caffeinated beverages
- Carbonated beverages
Foods to try
- Frozen fruits and vegetables
- Ice cream, milkshakes and ice chips
- Natural or sweetened yogurts and milk products
- Cream soups
- Mashed potatoes
- Custards and puddings
- Cooked cereals
1 pint vanilla ice cream
1 cup milk
1 tbsp. chocolate sauce
Blend all ingredients together and top with crushed Oreos.
1 cup blueberries
2 tbsp. sugar
1 pint vanilla ice cream
¼ cup buttermilk
Blend blueberries and sugar until syrupy, then blend with ice cream and buttermilk.
Contact your physician if:
- You want your doctor to prescribe certain mouthwash products.
- You are considering using related medications.
- You experience unintended weight loss.
- American Cancer Society
- National Comprehensive Cancer Network