Mucositis is an inflammatory process that affects the mucous membranes of the oral cavity and gastrointestinal tract. ONS PEP resources focus on oral mucositis, which is estimated to occur in about 40% of patients secondary to chemotherapy and almost 100% of those receiving radiation for head and neck cancer. Approximately 80% of those undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation will experience some level of oral mucositis. Oral mucositis can range in degree from mild changes in sensation to severe oral pain, infection, and ulcerative bleeding lesions. As a result of oral mucositis, patients can also experience anorexia, dehydration, weight loss, and malnutrition because of difficulty eating and drinking.

Oral mucositis is a dose-limiting side effect of cancer treatment, with more than one-third of patients discontinuing treatment because of the condition. Oral mucositis can be costly as well, necessitating hospitalization in 62% and tube feedings in 70% of patients with this symptom.

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This topic was updated on July 29, 2015.

2011–2015 Authors

June G. Eilers, PhD, APRN, CNS, BC, Yuki Asakura, PhD, RN, OCN®, Carol S. Blecher, RN, MS, AOCN®, CBCN®,Deborah Burgoon, MS, RN, AOCN®, Brenda Robertson Burns, MSN, RN, OCN®, Rochelle Chiffelle, DNP, FNP, Kathryn Ciccolini, BSN, RN, OCN®, DNC, Donna Copeland, MSN, RN, CPON®, Gina DeGennaro, DNP, RN, AOCN®, CNL, Joanne Growney, RN, MA, ANP-BC, OCN®, Dora Hallock, RN, MSN, OCN®, CRNI, CHPN, Debra J. Harris, RN, MSN, OCN®, Karen S. Henry, MSN, ARNP, AOCNP®, FNP-BC, Cathy Maxwell, RN, OCN®, Hanan Saca-Hazboun, PhDc, RN, Celestine Samuel-Blalock, MSNL-HCS, PHN, RN-BC, Anna Skripnik, RN, BSN, DNC, and Janice Terlizzi, RN, APN, ACNS-BC, AOCN®

ONS Staff: Lee Ann Johnson, PhD, RN, Margaret M. Irwin, PhD, RN, MN, Christine M. Maloney, BA, Kerri A. Moriarty, MLS, and Mark Vrabel, MLS, AHIP, ELS


2009 Authors

Debra J. Harris, RN, MSN, OCN®, and June G. Eilers, PhD, APRN-CNS, BC

ONS Staff: Linda H. Eaton, MN, RN, AOCN®


2007 Authors

Debra J. Harris, RN, MSN, OCN®, June G. Eilers, PhD, RN, BC, CS, Barbara J. Cashavelly, MSN, RN, AOCN®, Cathy L. Maxwell, RN, OCN®, CCRC, and Amber Harriman, RN

Research Consultant: Jane M. Armer, RN, PhD

ONS Staff: Linda H. Eaton, MN, RN, AOCN®