Ice-Based Therapy May Prevent Chemotherapy-Related Mucositis

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Among patients who held ice in their mouth before, during and after chemotherapy, 78% did not experience oral mucositis.

Cryotherapy was shown to decrease the rate of oral mucositis — a condition where small, painful sores develop in the mouth — in patients with breast cancer undergoing treatment with the chemotherapy agent doxorubicin, according to recent research presented at the 48th Annual Oncology Nursing Society Congress.

Cryotherapy is the use of cold to prevent or treat certain symptoms. In this instance, patients would hold ice chips in their mouths for 10 minutes before their chemotherapy infusion, for 10 minutes during the infusion and then 10 minutes after, explained study author Kara Morris, an oncology nurse at the Washington University Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

Of note, a similar method of cryotherapy has previously been studied to prevent chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy.

While mucositis is a common side effect for patients receiving this type of therapy, 78% of individuals who used cryotherapy on the trial reported that they did not experience the side effect; 22% of patients reported mucositis, though most cases were minor and able to be resolved without intervention.

Additionally, none of the patients reported not be able to tolerate the cold, making cryotherapy a “cost-effective intervention to aid in (the) reduction of mucositis and positively impact the quality of life for breast cancer patients during their treatment,” the study authors wrote.

“We’re pleasantly surprised at the outcome of 78%,” Morris said in an interview with CURE®’s sister publication, Oncology Nursing News®. “We’re excited that this intervention was helpful in the prevention of mucositis, which is a commonly experienced side effect of these breast cancer patients receiving doxorubicin.”


So we tracked by self-report of mucositis from cycle one through four. After cycle four patients started a new regimen so at that point, we did not track them past that cycle.

We used a check tracking sheet for each of those patients, and had IV pole reminders just to help staff remember the ice during the infusion. And then we completed this project over a one-year timeframe. There were 21 breast cancer patients that agreed to the oral cryotherapy intervention with doxorubicin. There were no patients that were unable to tolerate the cold 78% of our patients

78% of our patients had success and did not develop any mucositis and 22% reported mucositis. But they were like small mouth sores that result without any further intervention.

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