Radiation to the chest, neck, and head can affect the mouth and throat, creating dryness, changes in taste, difficult or painful swallowing, and changes in speech. Xerostomia (dryness of the mouth) occurs in over 80% of cancer patients receiving radiation to these areas within six weeks of first treatment. Some chemotherapy agents can also cause damage to the salivary glands, leading to xerostomia and mouth sores. These effects can last up to six months after treatment has stopped.
Treatments offered for xerostomia can include drugs to increase saliva, chewing sugar-free gum, sucking on sugar-free candy, and rinsing with specially formulated mouthwashes. These treatments at best are temporary and only manage symptoms. Acupuncture, however, was shown in this study (Meng et al.) to significantly reduce the occurrence and severity of xerostomia as early as 3 weeks into radiation therapy, and the benefits remained six months after the end of the treatments. Mouth sores associated with chemo and radiation are also highly responsive to acupuncture.
In Chinese medicine, chemo and radiation dry up the yin fluids of the body, creating symptoms of dryness and heat.
In addition to receiving acupuncture, it is helpful to eat a diet rich in yin nourishing foods such as the following:
- mung beans
- sweet potato
- string bean
- aduki beans
- black beans
- mung beans
- olive oil
- flaxseed and oil
Be sure to also drink at least two liters of water a day.
It is also best to avoid spicy and drying substances such as the following:
- hot spicy foods like chilies
- hard dry foods like crackers and pretzels
For over a decade, the acupuncturists at the Yinova Center have been supporting cancer patients through their treatments. All of our practitioners have specialized training in cancer supportive care. Many are also certified by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, offering comprehensive and professional support through the rigors of treatment. To learn more about how we can help you or someone you know, contact our front desk at 212.533.2255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.