Mucositis is when your mouth or gut is sore and inflamed. It's a common side effect of chemotherapy and radiotherapy for cancer. It can be very unpleasant but usually stops in a few weeks.
Symptoms of mucositis
The symptoms of mucositis usually begin around one to two weeks after starting cancer treatment.
- a sore mouth
- mouth ulcers
- difficulty swallowing, eating or talking
- a dry mouth and lips
- diarrhoea, bleeding from your bottom, or pain when pooing
Tell your care team if you're having cancer treatment and get any of these symptoms.
Things you can do to help
If you're having cancer treatment, there are some things you can do to help prevent and ease mucositis. See information below for what these include.
- brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush at least twice a day
- floss once a day
- rinse your mouth with warm water (or water mixed with a bit of salt) several times a day
- suck on crushed ice or ice lollies
- eat soft, moist foods (try adding gravy or sauces to meals)
- drink plenty of water
- chew sugar-free gum (this can help keep your mouth moist)
- use mouthwashes from shops without speaking to a pharmacist, nurse or doctor – they might irritate your mouth
- eat crunchy, rough or sharp foods like crisps
- eat hot, spicy or salty foods
- eat acidic foods like tomatoes, oranges or lemons
- drink hot drinks (like tea and coffee), fizzy drinks or alcohol
- take painkillers without speaking to a pharmacist, nurse or doctor
Treatments for mucositis
Mucositis should get better within a few weeks of finishing cancer treatment.
Your care team can offer treatments to ease it, such as:
- mouthwashes that clean, numb and protect your mouth
- sprays or gels to keep your mouth moist (saliva substitutes)
- medicines to stop diarrhoea or reduce soreness inside your bottom (rectum)
You may also find it useful to chat to people in a similar situation or who have had cancer treatment before. Ask your care team about support groups in your area.
More useful links
- How to use your health services
- Cancer Research UK: cancer chat
- Macmillan Cancer Support: online community
The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.
For further information see terms and conditions.