Mouth Cancer Treatment Chemotherapy

If you have received a mouth cancer diagnosis, you and your doctor or oncologist may have already devised a treatment plan.

The most common treatment plans include one or a combination of the following treatment options:

  • alternative therapy
  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy
  • surgery.

Chemotherapy is a type of mouth cancer treatment in which you are given medication either orally or intravenously that will kill the cancer cells.

Chemotherapy can be a difficult treatment, and while it can be very successful for treating mouth cancer, there are side effects. Coping with those side effects involves addressing the needs of the whole patient, body, mind and spirit.

Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Because chemotherapy, or chemo, involves using strong drugs to kill the cancer cells, there can also be side effects. Side effects for chemo used to treat mouth cancer include:

  • dry mouth
  • fatigue
  • loss of taste
  • nausea
  • pain or stiffness in the jaw
  • swelling of the mouth and jaw.

Researchers are constantly investigating new drugs to help ease the side effects of chemo. If you have any of these side effects, which may come on immediately or even many days after your treatment, call your doctor right away. There may be medications he or she can prescribe to help you deal with fatigue and other side effects.

Additionally, there are steps you can take to help. Be an active participant in your treatment. If you don’t feel strong enough, find an advocate (like a friend or family member) who can go with you to doctor appointments and chemo treatments. Ask questions, and learn as much about your disease as you are comfortable with.

Treat the Whole Person

You are not just a cancer patient, you are a person who is dealing with cancer. Sometimes, just changing your mindset about mouth cancer can make you feel a little more in control. If you can take care of your whole self, your body, your mind and your spirit, you may be able to navigate this stage of your life somewhat easier.

Taking Care of Your Body

Take care of yourself during chemo for mouth cancer. Before you start your treatment, get a dental checkup. Have any problem teeth treated. Then, as mouth cancer treatment begins, keep your teeth clean. It goes without saying that you should quit smoking and drinking alcohol.

Many methods exist to help you deal with the side effects of the strong drugs you are taking. Rinse your mouth often with warm salt water. If your mouth is dry, chew gum, or ask your doctor about special rinses or toothpastes.

Make a simple rinse of one-half teaspoon of glycerin from a health food store and two ounces of water. You can rinse the inside of your mouth with it before you go to sleep. If you develop sores in your mouth, let your doctor know right away, especially if the sores keep you from eating healthy food.

Other tips for keeping the body healthy include:

  • Try to get some light exercise. If you can’t walk around the block, walk around your yard. Simple stretching can keep you limber and help you sleep better.
  • Eat healthy food. Lots of fruits and vegetables can improve your immune system and help you stay strong during your treatment.

Taking Care of Your Mind

Learn as much about mouth cancer as you want to learn. Then try to keep your mind active in other ways.

If you feel well enough to work, even part time, then keep working. Learn new skills or hobbies. Needlework, computer skills or photography are all hobbies that can be cultivated from your home.

If you are dealing with fatigue, even reading or watching interesting television programs or movies can keep your mind active.

Taking Care of Your Spirit

Talk to your pastor or rabbi. Faith in something outside ourselves can keep us strong and less afraid of the future. Talking to a counselor or joining a support group may also be helpful. Sharing your personal experiences with others walking the same path can help you cope.

While your friends and family love and support you, they can’t empathize with your struggles the way another patient can.

Keep a journal. Having a safe place to write your private thoughts can be very therapeutic, especially if you can’t get out to talk to a counselor. You can keep your journal private, or you can share it with your family to help them understand what you’re dealing with.

Nurture relationships as much as you can, or want to. You may have only enough energy to deal with chemo. Or you may feel well and want to connect often with family and friends. You can connect in person, by phone or by e-mail. But don’t feel like you have to be a poster child for successful coping. If you want to just stay home and heal, that’s fine too.

Coping with the side effects of chemotherapy can be difficult. Use all the resources available to you to find solutions that work for you. Do whatever you have to do to take care of yourself and get well.

Resources

American Cancer Society (2007). Chemotherapy and Your Emotions. Retrieved on August 14, 2007, from the American Cancer Society Web site: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/MBC/content/MBC_2_3X_Chemotherapy_and_Your_Emotions.asp?sitearea=MBC.

Mayo Clinic (2007). Oral and Throat Cancer. Retrieved on August 14, 2007, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/oral-and-throat-cancer/D500349.