Oral Mucositis in Head and Neck Cancer: Risk, Biology, and Management

AuthorsStephen Sonis
PublishedJune 08, 2017
JournalOral Oncology


Of the toxicities associated with conventional forms of treatment for head and neck cancers, probably none has such a consistent legacy as oral mucositis.1 Despite the fact that mucosal injury was noted as far back as Marie Curie’s first forays into therapeutic radiation, an effective intervention has yet to be developed. In addition to its historic link to radiation, new therapeutic strategies including induction chemotherapy often produce mucositis, and targeted therapies appear to alter mucositis risk and its severity and course.2 The symptomatic effect of oral mucositis is profound. Disabling oral and oropharyngeal pain prevents patients from eating normally, requires opiate analgesics, and in some cases results in alteration or discontinuation of anticancer therapy.3 Furthermore, the health and economic consequences of oral mucositis are far from trivial. The incremental cost of oral mucositis in patients with head and neck cancer exceeds $17,000 (USD).4.

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