Stomatitis in Cancer: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Stomatitis is swelling and redness of the lining of your mouth. It can cause painful sores that can make it hard for you to eat, drink, or swallow. Stomatitis is a common problem for people getting cancer treatment. It can be a side effect of chemotherapy or of radiation to the mouth area. Your doctor may prescribe pain medicines or mouth rinses to treat stomatitis.

Some people with stomatitis also get a yeast infection of the mouth, called thrush. Medicines can treat this problem.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
    • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Use prescription mouth rinses as prescribed. Ask your doctor if you can freeze the mouth rinse in an ice cube tray. Sucking on a frozen cube of the mouth rinse can help ease the pain.
  • Make a rinse to keep your mouth from getting dry. Add 1 teaspoon baking soda and ½ teaspoon salt to 4 cups of water. Use it to rinse your mouth 4 to 6 times each day. Spit out the rinse. Do not swallow it.
  • Do not use a mouthwash or other over-the-counter rinse with alcohol. These can dry out your mouth or cause more pain.
  • If your doctor gave you mouthwash or lozenges to treat your yeast infection, use them as directed. You may need to swish these medicines in your mouth and spit them out. Or you may need to swish and swallow them.
  • Eat soft foods such as mashed potatoes and other cooked vegetables, noodles, applesauce, clear broth soups, yogurt, and cottage cheese. You can get extra protein by adding protein powder to milk shakes or breakfast drinks. Avoid eating spicy or crunchy foods.
  • Try eating cold foods such as ice cream or yogurt.
  • Avoid drinking high-acid juices such as orange, grapefruit, and cranberry juices.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Drinking through a straw may help with pain.
  • Practice good oral hygiene. Use a very soft toothbrush to brush your teeth. You could also use a soft cloth.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of needing more fluids. You have sunken eyes and a dry mouth, and you pass only a little dark urine.
  • You cannot drink or eat because your mouth is too sore.
  • You cannot swallow.
  • Your mouth pain gets worse after home care.
  • You get a fever not caused by the flu or other illness.
  • Your gums bleed.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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