Oral problems are a common side effect of both radiation therapy and chemotherapy because your mouth and throat are more sensitive than other parts of your body. Because eating well and drinking plenty of fluids play a vital role in your healing process, it's especially important for you to take good care of your mouth and throat. Although tips for dry mouth are covered in a different section, they may also be useful to you. Make sure you discuss any side effects of treatment with the doctor, as you don't want the side effects to compromise your treatments.

These tips may help with a sore throat:

  • Use butter, gravy, sauces or broth on foods to make them easier to swallow
  • Dunk foods in a beverage to make them softer
  • Use a blender to puree foods
  • Using a straw may make swallowing more comfortable
  • Eat soft foods such as mashed potatoes, scrambled or soft-boiled eggs, cooked cereals, milkshakes and macaroni and cheese
  • Eat soft, cold foods such as ice cream, watermelon, pudding or Jell-O. Eat sugary foods at mealtime with other foods, eating them between meals may cause tooth decay.
  • Ask the doctor about nutritional supplements such as Boost or Ensure.

These tips may help with mouth sores:

  • Drink through a straw
  • Avoid acidic foods such as tomatoes, oranges and grapefruit. If you like juices, apricot or pear nectar will not sting your mouth.
  • Don't use too many spices, especially salt, as they may cause your mouth to burn. Also avoid hard or crunchy foods such as crackers or chips because they may poke your mouth.
  • Don't drink alcohol or use any type of tobacco product
  • Practice good oral hygiene – keep your teeth and gums clean to help prevent infection.
  • If your mouth is too sore, ask the doctor about medications that may help.

Taking care of your mouth:

  • Use a soft bristle toothbrush, don't brush too hard, and brush after eating and at bedtime
  • Don't use commercial mouthwashes, which contain salt and/or alcohol and may irritate your mouth
  • Use this mouth rinse instead: combine 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda and 1 cup of warm water. Gargle and rinse out your mouth (carefully – not too vigorously) when you get up in the morning, after eating and anytime that your mouth hurts. Keep leftover rinse covered and make a fresh batch each day.
  • Use lip balm if your lips are chapped
  • Talk to your dentist about fluoride gels to help prevent tooth decay if your mouth gets too dry.