Oral mucositis (OM) is a debilitating side-effect of cancer therapy. It represents a considerable burden on patients' quality of life (QoL) leading patients to rank it as one of the most important treatment side effects to be managed by the physician. This survey aimed at identifying the challenges of living with OM from a patient perspective.
Between April and June 2015, a total of 150 patients on cancer treatment diagnosed with OM were recruited from 6 Asian countries. Each patient completed a 30-minute face-to-face interview followed by a 10-minute self-completion questionnaire.
Patients on cancer treatment, aged 18 to 65 years, who are currently suffering or suffered from OM in the last 6 months were surveyed. The disease was classified as very severe (45%) or severe (27%) as per the WHO scale. Patients with OM have been diagnosed with a variety of cancer types, most commonly breast cancer (31%) followed by leukaemia and colorectal cancer. The mean time to symptom onset following cancer therapy initiation ranged from 7.6 to 11.3 days. The majority of patients (79%) experienced recurrent OM with a symptom duration of 1 to 2 weeks. Dry mouth (79%), oral ulcers/sores (73%) and difficulty in swallowing (61%) were the most common symptoms. Almost half the patients waited before telling a doctor or until a doctor noticed the OM symptoms. Key reasons for seeking medical attention were because symptoms were very painful (80%) and/or affected patients' ability to eat/drink (88%). Seven out of 10 patients indicated that symptoms persisted and affected their daily life. 85% of patients used medications prescribed by their physician and of these, only 24% of patients were prescribed treatments prophylactically. Over one-third perceived that their OM greatly affected their ability to continue receiving the full dose of cancer therapy and 1 in 5 perceived it impacted their chances of survival.
Limited awareness of their condition lead OM patients to delay seeking medical care for their symptoms significantly impacting their QOL. More proactive approach to diagnose OM with patient education, prophylaxis and timely treatment will support patients QOL and successful completion of planned cancer therapy.
Clinical trial identification
J. Kanagalingam, M.I.A. Wahid, J.-C. Lin, N.A. Cupino, E. Liu, J.-H. Kang: consultant to Mundipharma Pte Ltd. N.B. Moreira: employee of Research Partnership. H. Arumugam, S. Mueller: employee of Mundipharma Pte Ltd.