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Oncology (Williston Park). 2002 May;16(5):680-6; discussion 686, 691-2, 695.

Oral complications of cancer therapy.

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Department of Oral Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


The mouth is a frequent site of complications arising from drug or radiation cancer therapy, with mucositis, xerostomia, osteoradionecrosis, and local infections being the most common. From the stand-point of dose limitation, treatment breaks, quality of life, and health economic outcomes, mucositis is the most significant acute oral toxicity. Xerostomia, a chronic side effect of radiation, involves the salivary gland tissue, and results in changes in taste, tissue resilience, and an increased risk of caries and periodontal disease. While the incidence of osteoradionecrosis seems to be decreasing, the chronicity and symptoms of this festering bony condition are especially difficult for patients. Local oral infections resulting from the overgrowth of opportunistic organisms or the activation of latent viruses are so common as to warrant a prophylactic approach in many cases. A surge of investigational interest has been directed at understanding the mechanisms of these stomatotoxicities and at developing treatment strategies to combat them.

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