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As they are at greater risk of suffering oral problems, specialists recommend cancer patients undergoing chemo or radiotherapy have a full dental check-up before beginning treatment.

Because they are immunocompromised as a result of their cancer, patients undergoing chemo or radiotherapy of the head and neck are at greater risk of developing oral problems. To be exact, up to 80% of patients on chemotherapy in Spain suffer oral problems ranging from ulcers to fungal infections. In the case of radiotherapy, in addition to problems in the mucous membranes, there are also complications in the teeth due to the high dose of radiation having lasting effects on the bones after therapy.

On the occasion of World Oral health Day, held next March 20, specialists in oral health recommend not beginning cancer treatment before a visit to the dentist. “The most important thing is prevention. No one should begin treatment of a tumor with an unhealthy mouth, because as soon as their defenses are low, infection sets in”, explains Dr. Nestor Montesdeoca, head of the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Service at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid.

To mitigate the impact chemo or radiotherapy may have on the patient’s oral health, Dr. Montesdeoca recommends, among other measures, “brushing with a soft brush, using a bicarbonate and saline solution mouthwash at least once a day and, above all, visiting a dentist specializing in cancer patients.

It is therefore fundamental that oral health be included in the multidisciplinary approach to the cancer patient. “MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid is the only center in Spain that provides this fully integrated service in the treatment of the cancer patient. This is important because it enables us to see first-hand the needs of the individual and the specifics of his/her tumor treatment to avoid dangerous complications that may be brought about by not taking these aspects into consideration”, points out Dr. Montesdeoca.