Purpose/objectives: To review the pathophysiology of oral complications from cancer therapy and potential secondary complications.
Data sources: Published articles, books, and monographs.
Data synthesis: Cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy disturb the normal integrity and function of the oral cavity. This leads to ulcerations, bone changes, bleeding, infection, salivary gland dysfunction, and dental diseases. Secondary complications occur as consequences of existing oral complications and often result in life-threatening situations.
Conclusions: Coordinating the efforts of nursing, medicine, and dentistry is critical to the prevention, management, and resolution of oral complications. Continued research is needed.
Implications for nursing practice: Understanding the pathophysiology of oral complications from cancer therapy enables nurses to identify significant changes and implement appropriate measures to prevent complications. By identifying patients who are at risk for developing secondary complications, nurses can provide detailed instructions to these patients and their significant others to aide them in reporting changes that require prompt medical attention.