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Radiation damage

Posts: 2
Joined: Jun 2004

My husband finished radiation and chemo 16months ago; had a radical neck dissection 13 months ago. However, he still has on-going radiation damage:
1. he has no saliva
2. his epiglottis doesn't close over so he can't swallow food
3. he has horrible, ever-present mucus that feels like glue in his mouth

He's really depressed about not being able to eat or move along. He uses biotene products to moisterize his mouth; he's doing speech exercises to strengthen his swallowing muscles (so that he can eat some day and get off the feeding tube); he gargles with papaya juice; he's seeing a therapist for his emotional needs and may be starting an antidepressent . But the phlegm is horrible - he's tried everything imaginable - used to use a suction machine, but it's different now. The gunk gets thicker whenever his throat is examined, when the heat is on, when there are allergens ... Any ideas? any help? tried gualifesin (mucinex) but it made him nauseous. Docs say he's coming along and that "he got really cooked" by radiation. But there's got to be some way to get relief from this gunk. Please help. thanks (ENT doc doesn't want to prescribe evoxac for dryness at this time)

Posts: 4
Joined: Aug 2005

I finished radiation and chemo for nasopharyngeal carcinoma 17 mos ago, though I did not require an RND... I, too, experienced extreme dry mouth and mucus. I had an esophageal dilation which great improved my ability to swallow. I also had a relatively new acupuncture procedure to produce saliva which, remarkably, helped! Recommend you check with your ENT docs. Mucinex works for me, but I have found the best treatment is just drink liquids...all the time... I am NEVER without a bottle of water. I certainly empathize with your husband...and hope he continues to improve...getting better will happen in excrutiatingly small bits... I just ask myself each day if I'm better than I was the day before, even if just a tiny bit, it gives me hope... Best of luck!!!

Posts: 9
Joined: Jul 2006


I know what he feels like. It is very unrelenting. It seems like it will always be this thick and won't improve. I was told it would improve and it did, very slowly though.

What I discovered mostly on my own was that if I gargled with luke warm water gently (the warmer the better-it breaks it up more) and let it drop down my throat to clear the mucous in there and spit it out I would loosen all the thick mucous. I would do this repeatedly until I was satisfied that I had gotten as much of the mucous out as I could. (When I say spit it out, I know it doesn't always come out-I would have to use my fingers to assist the saliva or glue to come out.) Just be careful not to let fluid go down the windpipe.

Then I took Biotene mouthwash and coated the inside of my mouth with this and made sure I breathed through my mouth-thus keeping the moisture in.

I would repeat the process frequently but as I healed up over time I would make less trips to the bathroom for a rinse.

Also, if you try this method get the biotene that is not flavored with mint or spearmint. I find that stings more than the plain biotene.

I'm nine years out and cancer free and remember that it was slow at first noticing any improvement, but eventually you could measure the improvement. Don't fight it psychologically, just accept it and over time you will see improvement.

Also, I believe plenty of water will help the saliva to thin out.

God Bless

Posts: 5
Joined: Feb 2007

Teebird, sorry you are both having such a hard time I know exactly what you are going through. unfortunately there is nothing that we could find to releave this after treatment. My husband is 3 1/2 years out from his last treatment and he still has the dry mouth, the sores are cleared up and he has a lot of drainage from the sinus region but not as bad, no mucus in the mouth he did not have a dissection he had six weeks of radiation the last two three times a day, and chemo also but he had a lot of problems from the chemo.also, he still has no saliva glands working and drinks water 24hrs. a day 7 days aweek, and a lot of pain for last few months in the muscles in his jaw with it locking and being really tight. we are trying to find something to help that right now. But things do take time but they do get better. Our son 24 at the time also had oral cancer and lost half his tongue. he opted no radiation because they said they could not believe it but his linphnoids were clear.. so he gets checked still every four months.
Sorry no immediate solution but it does get better...You are all in my prayers.

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