Doctors in Italy are studying whether a new type of mouthwash will help alleviate pain for patients suffering from head and neck cancer who were treated with radiation therapy, according to a study published in the February 1, 2006, issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics, the official journal of ASTRO, the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology.
Fifty patients, suffering from various forms of head and neck cancer and who received radiation therapy as part of their treatment, were observed during the course of their radiation treatment. Mucositis, or inflammation of the mucous membrane in the mouth, is the most common side effect for these patients yet no additional therapy has been identified that successfully reduces the pain. All of the patients experienced some level of pain related to their cancer treatment and this study sought to discover if a mouthwash made from the local anesthetic tetracaine was able to alleviate the discomfort associated with head and neck cancer and if there would be any negative side effects of the mouthwash. The doctors chose to concoct a tetracaine-based mouthwash instead of a lidocaine-based version because it was found to be four times more effective, worked faster and produced a prolonged relief.
The tetracaine was administered by a mouthwash approximately 30 minutes before and after meals, or roughly six times a day. Relief of oral pain was reported in 48 of the 50 patients. Sixteen patients reported that the mouthwash had an unpleasant taste or altered the taste of their food.
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