MAY 10, 2019 3:01 PM PDT

This Mouth Rinse Soothes the Pain of Cancer Treatment

WRITTEN BY: Julia Travers

Oral mucositis is a condition in which the lining that covers the mouth, the oral mucosa, becomes damaged. It is “probably the most common, debilitating complication of cancer treatments,” according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. Treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can result in mouth sores, pain and infection, as well as nutritional problems tied to the inability to eat. A new study out of Texas finds using an oral rinse containing the antiseptic methylene blue is effective in treating this oral condition.

Jaideep Mehta, M.D., MBA, a pain medicine fellow at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center who was involved in the research, said “oral mucositis occurs most often in patients undergoing head and neck radiation therapy, taking multiple types of chemotherapeutic agents, or undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplant.” He also noted the intensity of cancer treatment seems to lead to the most oral mucositis.

Mehta’s new research into the use of the mouth rinse focused on 47 patients who presented with “intractable” oral pain due to oral mucositis from cancer treatment between May 2016 and February 2018. The patients who participated used an oral rinse that was 0.5 percent methylene blue, swishing for several minutes three to six times every six hours.

Credit: collage, public domain image of mouth and image of oral rinse via Marco Verch on Flickr, CC 2.0

The research team used a numerical rating scale to assess the participants’ baseline pain levels, as well as the pain intensity after treatment and after three weeks of the study. The patients experienced a mean pain reduction from 7.8 to 2.5 immediately after using the rinse. A total of 43 out of 47 patients experienced consistent pain relief at week three, and the majority demonstrated the greatest pain reduction after using the rinse for two days. Neither the patients’ sex, age, baseline pain scores, nor type, stage or duration of cancer affected the success of this treatment. However, patients whose oral pain was linked to stem cell therapy had the lowest response to using the rinse -- their mean pain reduction was 30 percent or less.

“We think [methylene blue’s] analgesia may be from neurotoxicity at the nerve endings in the mucous lining, as well as inhibition of nitric oxide and cytokines at some of the raw and irritated sites,” Mehta said.

Another positive aspect of this therapy is that it may prove a powerful alternative to opioid use. Other current treatments for oral mucositis include maintaining oral hygiene and topical anesthetics, which Mehta described as “very transient in their benefits.” The minimal side effects of the methylene blue rinse included temporary mouth discoloration and a burning sensation while using the rinse.

Credit: Authority Dental, CC 2.0

Source: Clinical Oncology

About the Author
  • Julia Travers is a writer, artist and teacher. She frequently covers science, tech, conservation and the arts. She enjoys solutions journalism. Find more of her work at jtravers.journoportfolio.com.
You May Also Like
OCT 05, 2020
Cancer
Does Having an Appendectomy Increase Your Risk for Cancer?
OCT 05, 2020
Does Having an Appendectomy Increase Your Risk for Cancer?
Cancer research is more than just the study of diagnostics and novel therapies. Researchers also investigate the causes ...
OCT 15, 2020
Cancer
How is mole growth really associated to skin cancer?
OCT 15, 2020
How is mole growth really associated to skin cancer?
New research published in the journal eLife questions the way we think about skin cancer. Focused on mole growth, the st ...
OCT 26, 2020
Cancer
Attacking leukemia trojan horse style
OCT 26, 2020
Attacking leukemia trojan horse style
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry have developed a new approach to targeting leukemic stem cells ...
NOV 04, 2020
Cancer
Building a New Chemotherapy Drug
NOV 04, 2020
Building a New Chemotherapy Drug
For decades, modern medicine has relied on chemists’ work to produce compounds that could one day be used as a dru ...
NOV 24, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Young Inventor Creates Award-winning At-home Cancer Diagnostic
NOV 24, 2020
Young Inventor Creates Award-winning At-home Cancer Diagnostic
Getting a breast cancer diagnosis often means having to endure multiple tests, including some painful and invasive proce ...
NOV 23, 2020
Cancer
Platelets May Protect Cancer Against PD-1 Therapies
NOV 23, 2020
Platelets May Protect Cancer Against PD-1 Therapies
One of cancer’s greatest tools is its ability to manipulate the immune system. Many cancer therapies have arisen t ...
Loading Comments...