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Saliva or Mucus

Posts: 660
Joined: Mar 2012

We have all said there are no dumb questions, so I hope this still stands. I hear folks describe getting back a percentage of their saliva, obviously I know what saliva is but maybe its chemo brain but how will we know its saliva coming back versus this crazy mucus we all deal with. Right now my mouth at nite and sometimes during the day gets very dry but it can also flip on a dime and I can use a box of kleenex for spit and mucus. So what do you look for or feel for to know its good ole saliva coming back.

Posts: 41
Joined: Apr 2012

Hi Ditto:

I am 16 weeks out from last radiation and not yet fully back with saliva...I had
severe mucous problems that necessitated my getting a suction machine (insurance
paid for, delivered, can be ordered by attending nurses), which was the only thing
that allowed me to continue with radiation treatment. Lying on my back, with the
tooth guard, and NOT swallowing was literally impossible. I had to use the suction
machine at the radiation department up to a minute before treatment to get through
week 7 of radiation.

The key difference is that mucous creates problems for swallowing (and some choking),
while saliva facilitates swallowing and eating. Your taste buds will come back also when the salivary glands are making a come back. Everyone's timing is different, though, I gather.

One way that saliva came for me is that I noticed the presence of tiny white pearly
sores on one or other side of the tongue - these are blocked ducts on the tongue
that actually indicate that the salivary glands are coming back. I thought they were more mouth sores, and they do hurt some, but they are very good sign according to my radiologist.

Hope this helps.

Posts: 660
Joined: Mar 2012

Sunshine, good information. I hope your comments about the sores on sides of your tongue is an indication of the saliva coming back. I have some issues on both sides of my tongue that I hope are what you described, but either way hoping saliva to return soon. Although Im dealing with another bout of thrush now, I have been able to eat, slowly and with lots of water to get the food down but the good news I have good taste buds so hopefully that to as you stated is an indication of saliva coming back. So again thank you for your feedback.

phrannie51's picture
Posts: 4674
Joined: Mar 2012

of my taste buds is an indication that saliva is on the way)....everything but soup kinda stacks up in my mouth till I use milk to wash it down, and that makes me miss out on a lot of taste (which I crave!!!). My tongue is so tender, and it doesn't take much in the way of food texture to irritate my tongue into a screaming appendage...now I'd think since I'm a full 3 months out of radiation, and a month out of chemo that my mouth tenderness would be far less...but even a waffle full of butter and syrup like to tear my tongue up.

I didn't have mucous too bad, only when the mouth sores were at their worst...and the mucous did keep my mouth from drying out...it does seem like saliva in a way, till it starts getting real thick.


Skiffin16's picture
Posts: 8286
Joined: Sep 2009

Oh, that wasn't a question on which I would prefer...

I never had the sores mentioned above. And frankly if I have white sores or patches inside my mouth or throat, I'm going to get concerned.

I also didn't have the thich choking phlegm that many have either, which I attribute to the Amifostine Injections prescribed by my Onco...

As for the difference...

To me the thock mucous and associated form more in the throat and are brought up with coughing or some effort that way...not really the consistancy of draining as when you have sinus or cold problems.

The saliva is produced in my mouth, and it's clear and liquid.

Unlike the very thicky, white, sticky spit that was more like clue before completly going away during and after rads.

I can actually produce saliva now....

Mine actually started coming back little by litte one day when sitting watching TV. Something I saw gave me that tingle sensation that you get from seeing something really tart or sour. You know that feeling you get behind the ear, slightly lower...almost an ache, and it kind of makes your mouth water a little.

I started trying to reproduce that sensation, and occasionally could, along with a tiny bit of saliva.

Anyways over time, I started getting more and more saliva back. Somewhere after nealry two years, I had pretty much all saliva back other than drying out a little during sleep.

But as soon as I get up, within a few minutes, the saliva starts flowing again.


Posts: 4
Joined: Sep 2012

When you have painful sores on your tongue or in your mouth, ask your Dr. for liquid lidacaine applied with your finger. Without this I would have required a feeding tube.

As far as saliva, should return to consistency as it was prior to radiation just may never be as much. I used biotene toothpast and mouthwash to help reduce dry mouth.


CivilMatt's picture
Posts: 4336
Joined: May 2012


I agree with sunshine, mucus is for spitting and saliva is for swallowing. It gets better, lots better. My rad onc was happy to hear my spit was “more runny” and “less sticky”, she said that is a good sign.



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