Oral care of patients in the cancer setting
Intended for healthcare professionals

Oral care of patients in the cancer setting

Barry Gerard Quinn Senior Lecturer, Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Frances Campbell Cancer Nurse Specialist, Head and Neck Cancer, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Glasgow, Scotland
Lorraine Fulman Information Radiographer, Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, England
Jocelyn Harding Dental Hygienist, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, England
Susan Dargan Lead Nurse, Cancer and Palliative Care, Barts Health NHS Trust, London, England
Jane Mathlin Therapeutic Radiographer, Velindre Cancer Centre, Cardiff, Wales
Joanna Gemmill Therapeutic Radiographer, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, England
Charles Kelly Oncologist, Northern Centre for Cancer Care, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England
Claire Morgan Consultant Dentist, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, England
Maureen Thompson Consultant Radiographer, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Glasgow, Scotland
Sonja Hoy Clinical Nurse Specialist Thyroid Cancer, Royal Marsden Hospital, London, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To obtain an overview of the common oral complications of cancer treatment

  • To develop an optimal treatment plan for patients with oral complications after cancer treatment

  • To count towards revalidation as part of your 35 hours of CPD, or you may wish to write a reflective account (UK readers)

  • To contribute towards your professional development and local registration renewal requirements (non-UK readers)

Oral complications arising from cancer or its treatment, such as mucositis and dry mouth, are common. In the general cancer setting, oral complications can be expected in at least 50% of patients undergoing chemotherapy or targeted therapy to treat a solid tumour. In patients with head and neck cancers and in those undergoing haematopoietic stem cell transplantation, the incidence is much higher. Oral complications can cause distress, malnutrition and/or dehydration, inability to sleep, delays to treatment, long-term complications and increased morbidity. However, they are not inevitable and a planned, proactive team approach to oral care can assist in preventing them or in reducing their incidence and severity.

This article provides an overview of optimal oral care in the cancer setting, covering assessment, identification of risk factors, patient education, optimal care of the oral cavity, preventive measures and treatment options.

Cancer Nursing Practice. doi: 10.7748/cnp.2020.e1706

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated software




Conflict of interest

None declared

Quinn BG, Campbell F, Fulman L et al (2020) Oral care of patients in the cancer setting. Cancer Nursing Practice. doi: 10.7748/cnp.2020.e1706

Acknowledgement This article is based on the work of the United Kingdom Oral Management in Cancer Group (UKOMiC), a multiprofessional group of oral care experts working in dentistry, oncology and haematology across the UK

Published online: 15 June 2020

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