Mouth Matters: Understanding Chemotherapy-Related Mouth Ulcers


Dealing with cancer is already a challenging time, and the side effects of treatment can make it even more difficult. One common side effect that many cancer patients experience is mouth ulcers. These painful sores can impact on quality of life and can make eating and speaking uncomfortable, potentially resulting in malnutrition and dehydration. But there are ways to manage them. In this blog post, we will explore why cancer treatment can cause mouth ulcers and suggest some suitable foods to eat when you have them.

Why does cancer treatment cause mouth ulcers?

Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can damage the rapidly dividing cells in the lining of the mouth, leading to the development of mouth ulcers. These ulcers can appear as small, shallow sores or larger, more painful ones. The severity of the ulcers can vary depending on the type and dosage of the treatment.

A couple of coping strategies: 

1. Good Oral Hygiene

Experts suggest maintaining excellent oral hygiene is crucial during cancer treatments. Using a soft toothbrush and mild toothpaste, and rinsing the mouth with a saline solution or prescribed mouthwash can help prevent infections and soothe the mucosa.

2. Hydration

Staying well-hydrated is crucial to prevent dehydration, especially if the act of drinking becomes challenging due to mouth ulcers. Sipping on water throughout the day and avoiding acidic beverages is advisable.

What are suitable foods to eat when you have mouth ulcers?

When you have mouth ulcers, it's important to choose foods that are easy to eat and won't further irritate the sores. Here are some suitable options:

1. Soft Foods

Opt for soft foods that require minimal chewing, such as mashed potatoes, yogurt, and smoothies. These foods are gentle on the mouth and won't aggravate the ulcers.

2. Cool or Room Temperature Foods

Hot and spicy foods can worsen the pain of mouth ulcers. Instead, choose cool or room temperature foods like chilled soups, fruit purees, and lukewarm beverages.

3. Non-Acidic Fruits

While fruits are generally healthy, some acidic fruits like citrus fruits can be irritating to mouth ulcers. Opt for non-acidic fruits like bananas, melons, and applesauce.

4. Cooked Vegetables

Raw vegetables can be tough to chew and may cause discomfort. Cooked vegetables, on the other hand, are softer and easier to eat. Steam or boil vegetables until they are tender.

5. Protein-rich Foods

Protein is essential for healing and recovery. Choose soft protein sources like eggs, tofu, and smooth nut butters. These foods provide the necessary nutrients without causing additional pain.

6. Avoid Irritants

When you have mouth ulcers, it's best to avoid foods and drinks that can further irritate the sores. This includes spicy foods, acidic beverages, and rough-textured foods like chips and crackers.



Remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. If you're having difficulty eating due to mouth ulcers, consult your healthcare team for additional support and guidance.

Dealing with mouth ulcers during cancer treatment can be challenging, but by choosing suitable foods, you can make the process a little easier.

Consulting with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to create an individualised nutrition plan is crucial for patients undergoing cancer treatments.

Remember to listen to your body and give it the nourishment it needs to heal.

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  • Alexandra Stewart
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