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Oral Complications of Chemotherapy and Head/Neck Radiation

Mental and Social Considerations

The social aspects of oral complications can make them the most difficult problems for cancer patients to cope with. Oral complications affect eating and speaking and may make the patient unable or unwilling to take part in mealtimes or to dine out. Patients may become frustrated, withdrawn, or depressed, and they may avoid other people. Some drugs that are used to treat depression may not be an option because they cause side effects that make oral complications worse. (See the PDQ summaries on Depression and Adjustment to Cancer: Anxiety and Distress for more information.)

Education, supportive care, and the treatment of symptoms are important for patients who have mouth problems that are related to cancer therapy. Patients will be closely monitored for pain, ability to cope, and response to treatment. Supportive care from health care providers and family can help the patient cope with cancer and its complications.