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Mucositis Prevention- Head & Neck Cancer-

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Mucositis prevention- Head & Neck cancer can keep the cancer patient on their therapy plan as well as enhance quality of life for the cancer patient. According to research, oral mucositis occurs is approximately 40% of cancer patients.

Though my cancer, multiple myeloma, is very different than head and neck  cancer, I also developed mucositis- thankfully for only a brief period. At the time there were no therapies for oral mucositis prevention.

I am both a cancer survivor and cancer coach. My cancer experiences give me a unique perspective about common side effects such as oral mucositis.

What are current therapies to treat radiation-induced oral mucositis in head and neck cancer?

  1. Topical Agents:
    • Oral Rinses: Bland rinses, saline solutions, or prescribed mouthwashes may help cleanse the mouth and provide relief.
    • Topical Anesthetics: These can numb the affected areas and alleviate pain.
  2. Systemic Medications:
    • Pain Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or opioids may be prescribed to manage pain.
    • Antimicrobial Agents: Antibiotics may be used if there is an infection.
  3. Growth Factors:
    • Palifermin: This is a keratinocyte growth factor that may be used to stimulate the growth of cells lining the mouth and throat.
  4. Amifostine:
    • This cytoprotective agent may help protect normal cells from the effects of radiation.
  5. Low-Level Laser Therapy:
    • Some studies suggest that low-level laser therapy may promote healing and reduce the severity of oral mucositis.
  6. Cryotherapy:
    • Cooling the oral cavity with ice chips during radiation therapy may help reduce blood flow and decrease the risk of mucositis.
  7. Nutritional Support:
    • Maintaining good oral hygiene and nutrition is crucial. Nutritional supplements or feeding tubes may be recommended to prevent malnutrition.
  8. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy:
    • In some cases, hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be considered to promote healing.

This is the 10th post I’ve written about oral mucositis prevention. When I come across a study citing a new therapy for OM such as medical honey, I write another post. Medical honey can be added to the 5 therapies below all shown to either prevent or minimize oral mucositis.

Have you been diagnosed with head & neck cancer? Are you about to undergo radiation to your neck? Your call of course but if I were you I would do ALL the therapies listed above.

The first three therapies- probiotics, curcumin and omega-3 fatty acids are easy and relatively inexpensive to do. The last two- ice chips and green tea mouthwash are therapies that you can undergo while you are undergoing your radiation therapy (or just before and just after).

My point is the mucositis prevention therapies listed above are not FDA approved standard-of-care therapies. Don’t be surprised if your oncologist doesn’t mention them and/or doesn’t know about them. Nothing against your onc.- I’m just saying that the conventional, FDA world of oncology is separate from the evidence-based non-conventional oncology world.

If you would like to learn more about evidence-based non-conventional therapies for head & neck cancers, send me an email- David.PeopleBeatingCancer@gmail.com 

Hang in there,

David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

Medical Honey in Head and Neck Cancer

“Medical honey has been recognized for its medicinal properties for thousands of years, and several medical honey products have entered the market over the last two decades. In vitro studies have shown that honey has antimicrobial properties, protects against bacterial growth, and improves wound healing…

Additionally, honey has been utilized in those undergoing radiotherapy for head and neck cancer (HNC) to treat radiation-induced mucositis…

Radiation-induced mucositis

Co et al. conducted a meta-analysis to assess the use of honey on radiation-induced oral mucositis. The treatment groups were given honey orally, with most trials prescribing twenty mL of honey to be swished and swallowed three times daily. The control group treatments included either a normal saline solution and standard of care or a syrup-based placebo gel.

Although there was no statistical difference in the development of severe mucositis, risk ratio (RR) of 0.45, there was a significantly lower risk of radiation treatment interruption in the honey group with an RR of 0.11…

Tian et al. included seven trials with 412 patients in their meta-analysis. The treatment groups received various types of honey while the comparison groups received normal saline or lignocaine gel. Their results showed that honey did not decrease the incidence of radiation-induced oral mucositis relative risk but did reduce the severity of oral mucositis.

Honey treatment also helped in maintaining or increasing patient weight and reduced treatment interruptions related to oral mucositis…

Radiotherapy continues to be a critical treatment of HNC, with oral/oropharyngeal mucositis being a typical dose-limiting adverse effect and a key component in treatment failures [18].

Current preventative treatments, such as optimal oral hygiene and various combinations of mouth rinses, have limited efficacy. Currently, standard preventative treatments for radiation-induced mucositis do not include honey [26].

Orally administered honey, whether swallowed or swished, coats the mucosal surfaces and may protect from radiation-induced mucosal damage.

The articles reviewed provide evidence that honey can delay the progression of moderate/severe mucositis and decrease treatment interrupting adverse effects. Honey provides a safe and inexpensive option to supplement other pharmaceutical interventions…


In summary of the existing evidence, honey provides a safe complementary treatment option for the prevention of radiation-induced mucositis for those with HNC. Medical-grade honey can be used on postoperative wounds as a moisture barrier and may facilitate healing and improvements in scarring. No evidence exists comparing honey to other common postoperative wound ointments in the region of the head and neck, and more evidence is needed to quantify the efficacy of honey in postoperative wounds and grafts.”

Avasopasem Manganese Significantly Reduces IMRT-Induced Severe Oral Mucositis-

“Avasopasem manganese (GC4419) significantly reduced the incidence of severe oral mucositis (SOM) associated with standard-of-care (SOC) intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) vs placebo for patients with locally advanced head and neck cancer…

Turmeric Mouthwash Reduces Severity of Oral Mucositis in Head and Neck Cancer

“A turmeric mouthwash can reduce the severity of oral mucositis in patients with head and neck cancer undergoing radiotherapy, according to a study published in Cancer Nursing.

Researchers conducted this randomized, controlled trial to compare a turmeric mouthwash to standard care (benzydamine mouthwash) for oral mucositis….”

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