Oral complications of cancer and cancer therapy: from cancer treatment to survivorship

CA Cancer J Clin. Nov-Dec 2012;62(6):400-22. doi: 10.3322/caac.21157. Epub 2012 Sep 12.


Answer questions and earn CME/CNE Oral complications resulting from cancer and cancer therapies cause acute and late toxicities that may be underreported, underrecognized, and undertreated. Recent advances in cancer treatment have led to changes in the incidence, nature, and severity of oral complications. As the number of survivors increases, it is becoming increasingly recognized that the aggressive management of oral toxicities is needed to ensure optimal long-term oral health and general well-being. Advances in care have had an impact on previously recognized oral complications and are leading to newly recognized adverse effects. Here, the authors briefly review advances in cancer therapy, including recent advances in surgery, oral care, radiation therapy, hematopoietic cell transplantation, and medical oncology; describe how these advances affect oral health; and discuss the frequent and/or severe oral health complications associated with cancer and cancer treatment and their effect upon long-term health. Although some of the acute oral toxicities of cancer therapies may be reduced, they remain essentially unavoidable. The significant impact of long-term complications requires increased awareness and recognition to promote prevention and appropriate intervention. It is therefore important for the primary oncologist to be aware of these complications so that appropriate measures can be implemented in a timely manner. Prevention and management is best provided via multidisciplinary health care teams, which must be integrated and communicate effectively in order to provide the best patient care in a coordinated manner at the appropriate time.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Candidiasis, Oral / etiology
  • Candidiasis, Oral / therapy
  • Dental Caries / etiology
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Facial Pain / etiology
  • Facial Pain / therapy
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary
  • Olfaction Disorders / etiology
  • Olfaction Disorders / therapy
  • Oral Health
  • Oral Ulcer / etiology
  • Oral Ulcer / therapy
  • Osteoradionecrosis / etiology
  • Osteoradionecrosis / therapy
  • Periodontitis / etiology
  • Quality of Life
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sialorrhea / etiology
  • Sialorrhea / therapy
  • Stomatitis / etiology
  • Stomatitis / therapy
  • Taste Disorders / etiology
  • Taste Disorders / therapy
  • Tooth Demineralization / etiology
  • Tooth Demineralization / prevention & control
  • Trismus / etiology
  • Trismus / therapy
  • Virus Diseases / etiology
  • Virus Diseases / therapy


  • Antineoplastic Agents