Chemotherapy is a complex health service that is provided to individuals who are suffering from malignancy of some type. For individuals who have a blood disorder with malignancy, the use of chemotherapy is vitally important but can lead to secondary health complications as well.

If you are a cancer patient who is undergoing chemotherapy for a malignant blood disorder, it is important to speak with your oncologist about your health risk, but to also understand what side effects are associated with chemotherapy drugs. Because chemotherapy can reduce your underlying immunity, and suppress bone marrow, there are a variety of health risks that you may develop and oftentimes cancer patients are not prepared for these side effects.

One of the most common side effects of chemotherapy, in those patients with a malignant blood disorder, is the development of complications in the mouth. For most cancer patients in this class, the development of oral lesions is quite common. Unfortunately, when undergoing a routine physical examination by your oncology nurse or oncology doctor, the condition of your mouth may not be fully checked and often lesions develop without the patient even realizing the complication exists.

If you are about to undergo chemotherapy, it is important, as the patient, that you pay especially close attention to your oral healthcare and to ask your doctor, or nurse, to thoroughly check the inside of your mouth for any signs of complications. With close examination, complications such as abnormal saliva, redness, swelling and even bleeding, can be detected early and often negate the need for more expanded oral health treatment.

Because complex oral health complications, when not treated promptly, can lead to other health conditions it is important to pay especially close attention to your teeth, gums, lips and the inside of your cheeks. When unsure about your health, be sure to see an oral surgeon or dentist as well as often they can work with your oncology team to mitigate the health complications that will arise while you are fighting the malignant blood disorder. The key to your optimal health may lie, however, in your ability to become your own advocate and to recognize that the oral health may be overlooked by your oncology team.

Sources: Managing the Side Effects of Chemotherapy and Radiation, by Marilyn J. Dodd


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