Cancer Institute A national cancer institute
designated cancer center

Managing Chemotherapy Side Effect

Nausea / Vomiting and Chemotherapy
Hair Loss and Chemotherapy
Pain and Chemotherapy
Mucositis / Mouth Sores and Chemotherapy
Diarrhea and Chemotherapy
Constipation and Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy's Effects on Organs / Body Systems
Skin / Nails and Chemotherapy
Bone Marrow Suppression and Chemotherapy
Anemia and Chemotherapy
Infection and Chemotherapy
Blood Clots / Bruising and Chemotherapy
Appetite / Taste Changes and Chemotherap

Mucositis / Mouth Sores and Chemotherapy

The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the type of chemotherapy and the amount given. Anticipating and managing side effects can help to minimize them and provide the best possible experience for the person receiving chemotherapy.

What is mucositis?

As each person's individual medical profile and diagnosis is different, so is his/her reaction to treatment. Side effects may be severe, mild, or absent. Be sure to discuss with your cancer care team any/all possible side effects of treatment before the treatment begins.

Mucositis (also known as stomatitis) is the swelling, irritation, and ulceration of the cells that line the digestive tract. These cells reproduce rapidly and have a shorter life span than other cells in the body. Because chemotherapy agents do not differentiate between healthy cells and cancer cells, they can quickly destroy digestive tract cells, breaking down the protective lining and leaving them inflamed, irritated, and swollen. Mucositis can occur anywhere along the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus, and can be aggravated by nausea and vomiting.

What are the symptoms of mucositis?

The following are the most common symptoms of mucositis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of mucositis may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

What can be done to manage the symptoms?

Symptoms may occur a week or longer after treatment is completed and may not be preventable. However, there are things you can do to reduce the severity of symptoms and provide some level of comfort. To relieve symptoms of oral mucositis, consider the following:



Stanford Medicine Resources:

Footer Links: