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Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy can cause damage to the salivary glands. Saliva plays an important role in helping to keep the mouth moist so you can chew, swallow, taste and talk comfortably. When not enough saliva is produced by the salivary glands, any of these actions can become painful or problematic. If you’re experiencing dryness in your mouth, you might have any of the following symptoms:

  • A dry mouth, tongue and throat
  • A burning sensation in the mouth
  • Cracked lips or corners of the mouth
  • Pain when chewing or swallowing
  • Changes or loss in taste and appetite

 

  • Drink warming teas and soups that help to keep your mouth hydrated
  • Sleep with a humidifier or vaporizer in your room can help ease your throat overnight
  • Gargle frequently with warm Sea Salt water
  • Sit straight when eating and swallowing
  • Focus on eating thick liquid foods - smoothies, milkshakes, blended meats, veggies and fruits
  • Stay away from dry sharp foods like biscuits, crackers and crisps
  • Opt for bland foods without strong flavourings and spices
  • Steer clear of acidic foods
  • Crush medication into pureed foods so you don’t have to swallow them (always check with your doctor before doing this)

If you’re experiencing dryness in your mouth as a result of radiotherapy to your head or neck, the worst side effects will usually be in the days following treatment. These changes should start to improve around 6 - 8 weeks after finishing treatment. However, a few people will develop longer term changes to their mouth. Permanent changes can happen, but these are very rare. Your doctor will be able to advise you on managing any long-lasting changes as a result of radiotherapy treatment.

Dryness in the mouth caused by chemotherapy is usually only a temporary symptom, and you should start to notice improvements anywhere from 2 - 8 weeks post treatment.

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