Mucositis is the inflammation of the gastrointestinal mucosa that is usually associated with treatment with chemotherapy or radiotherapy, being one of the most frequent side effects in patients undergoing cancer treatment.
Since the mucous membranes cover the entire digestive tract from the mouth to the anus, symptoms may vary according to the most affected site, but the most common is that mucositis appears in the mouth, called oral mucositis, and causes discomforts such as mouth sores, swollen gums and a lot of pain when eating, for example.
Depending on the degree of mucositis, the treatment can go through making small changes in the consistency of the food and using oral anesthetic gels, even making adjustments in the treatment of cancer and, in the most serious cases, hospitalization for administration of medication and feeding in the vein, according to the guidance of the oncologist.
Symptoms of mucositis vary depending on the location of the gastrointestinal tract affected, the person’s general health, and the degree of mucositis. However, the most common symptoms include:
- Swelling and redness of the gums and lining of the mouth;
- Pain or burning sensation in the mouth and throat;
- Difficulty swallowing, speaking or chewing;
- Presence of sores and blood in the mouth;
- Excessive saliva in the mouth.
These symptoms usually appear 5 to 10 days after starting a cycle of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, but may persist for up to 2 months due to a decrease in the amount of white blood cells.
In addition, if mucositis affects the intestine, other signs and symptoms may arise such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood in the stool and pain when defecating, for example.
In the most severe cases, mucositis can also lead to the appearance of a thick white layer, which happens when fungi manage to develop in excess in the mouth.
Who is at highest risk of mucositis
Mucositis is very common in people who are undergoing cancer treatment with chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, but this does not mean that all people undergoing this type of treatment will develop mucositis. Some factors that seem to increase the risk of developing this side effect include having poor oral hygiene, being a smoker, drinking too little water during the day, being underweight, or having a chronic condition such as kidney disease, diabetes, or HIV infection.
Major degrees of mucositis
According to the WHO, mucositis can be divided into 5 grades:
- Grade 0: there are no changes in the mucosa;
- Grade 1: it is possible to observe redness and swelling of the mucosa;
- Grade 2: there are small wounds and the person may have difficulty ingesting solids;
- grade 3: there are wounds and the person can only drink liquids;
- Grade 4: oral feeding is not possible, requiring hospitalization.
The identification of the degree of mucositis is done by the doctor and helps to determine the best type of treatment.
How is the treatment done?
The treatments used to treat a case of mucositis can vary according to the symptoms and the degree of inflammation and, in general, they only serve to relieve the symptoms, so that the person can eat more easily and feel less discomfort during the procedure. day.
A measure that is always encouraged, regardless of the severity of mucositis, is the adoption of adequate oral hygiene practices, which can be just the use, 2 to 3 times a day, of a mouthwash recommended by the doctor, to disinfect the wounds and prevent the development of infections. When this is not possible, a homemade solution can be to rinse your mouth with a mixture of warm water and salt, for example.
In addition, it is important to pay some attention to the diet, which should contain foods that are easy to chew and less irritating. Thus, hot, very hard foods, such as toast or peanuts, should be avoided; very spicy, like pepper; or that contain some kind of acid, like lemon or orange, for example. A good solution is to puree some fruits, for example.
Here are some nutrition tips that can help:
In cases where these measures are not enough, the doctor may also prescribe the ingestion of painkillers or even the application of some anesthetic gel, which can relieve pain and allow the person to eat more easily.
In the most serious cases, when the mucositis is grade 4, for example, and prevents the person from eating, the doctor may advise hospitalization, so that the person takes medication directly into the vein, as well as parenteral nutrition, in which nutrients are administered directly into the bloodstream. Learn more about parenteral nutrition.
Always consult a doctor.
Verified by RJ985 – Brazilian natural medicine CMIO.org