Updated: July 2006
The following information provides a general outline for the oral management of the cancer patient. It is neither intended to serve as a comprehensive academic review nor to cover all of the possible complications that develop in the treatment of cancer patients or the morbidity associated with cancer surgery. Further information may be obtained by reviewing related literature, or by contacting the Oral Oncology Program/ Dental Department.
Vancouver Cancer Centre tel: 604.877.6136
Fraser Valley Cancer Cetre tel: 604.930.2098
Cancer Centre for the Southern Interior: 250.712.3919
Find patient information about mouth cancer.
For Patients Receiving Chemotherapy for Any Malignancy
Approximately 40 percent of patients receiving chemotherapy will experience oral complications. The majority of patients with leukemia and those who receive a bone marrow transplant will develop oral complications. Research shows, however, that fewer problems develop when oral disease is eliminated, when an oral prophylaxis is performed prior to the initiation of chemotherapy and when excellent oral hygiene is maintained throughout therapy.
For Patients Receiving Radiation Therapy to the Oral Cavity and/or Salivary Glands
Radiation therapy to the head and neck, which includes the salivary glands and/or the oral and pharyngeal tissues, may result in acute side effects that include taste loss, mucositis, infection and decreased salivary flow. Long-term, permanent side effects may include xerostomia, "radiation caries," trismus, soft tissue breakdown and failure to heal, and osteoradionecrosis (ORN).
The objectives of an oral/dental program for the cancer patient are to:
- Improve and maintain oral hygiene in order to reduce the risk and severity of oral complications.
- Eliminate oral infection and prevent potentially fatal systemic infections of dental origin.
- Prevent, eliminate or control pain in the oral cavity.
- Maintain or improve oral status and prevent destruction of the dentition.
- Assist with maintaining adequate nutrition.
- Provide reconstruction and/or rehabilitation following surgical procedures.
- Prevent or reduce the incidence of bone necrosis secondary to radiation of jawbones.
- Improve quality of life.