More than a sore mouth: patients' experience of oral mucositis

Oncol Nurs Forum. 2002 Aug;29(7):1051-7. doi: 10.1188/02.ONF.1051-1057.


Purpose/objectives: To explore patients' experience of chemotherapy-induced oral mucositis.

Design: Interpretive descriptive, phenomenologic.

Setting: The cancer center of a metropolitan teaching hospital in South Australia.

Sample: A purposive sample of six participants undergoing intensive cytotoxic therapy associated with autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

Methods: Patients were interviewed at different stages of their treatment trajectory and asked to relate their experience of oral mucositis as it developed and resolved.

Findings: Participants' reports indicated three distinct phases representing linear time in the course of their mucositis: the preparatory phase, the peak phase, and the persisting phase. Five themes further abstracted were the presence of nurses, therapeutic interventions, manifestations of mucositis, the distress of eating (and not eating), and whether the treatment was worthwhile.

Conclusions: Oral mucositis is much more than a sore mouth. The effects of mucositis are widespread and can have a marked effect on patients' psychological well-being.

Implications for nursing: Care centers often focus on pain control through pharmacologic intervention and overlook the effects of other sequelae. Nurses' role in helping patients to cope with mucositis should encompass more than providing pharmacologic pain relief.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Australia
  • Eating
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Mucosa / drug effects
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / nursing*
  • Oncology Nursing* / methods
  • Stomatitis / chemically induced
  • Stomatitis / nursing*
  • Stomatitis / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / nursing*


  • Antineoplastic Agents