Some of the oral tablets the doctors prescribe for cancer treatment are what we call targeted therapies. This means the chemicals in the drugs ‘target’ a specific process or protein in the cells linked with your cancer. Not all cancers have these processes and proteins. Not all cancers are suitable for a targeted oral tablet.
An example of some oral targeted therapies are Tarceva and Affinitor.
The two most common side effects of targeted oral therapies are stomatitis (inflammation of the lining of the mouth and gastro-intestinal tract) and skin rash. Both of these side effects are easily managed if identified early and treated.
If you are taking a tablet therapy it is recommended that you thoroughly wash your mouth and gargle after every meal with salt water or bicarbonate soda mixed with water (see below for recipe). If you find the taste of these solutions unpleasant there are a range of commercial mouth care products suitable for people being treated for cancer. Ask your pharmacist next time you visit. It is important to stay away from mouth care products that contain alcohol and spicy, crunchy and dry foods as well as food and liquids that are extremely hot or cold.
Skin rashes can vary in severity. The most important way to manage the skin is to keep it well moisturised to reduce the risk of the skin becoming dry, cracked and itchy. Use a moisturiser that is free of perfumes. Your pharmacist or doctor will be able to guide you. If the rash becomes irritating the doctor can prescribe a suitable steroidal cream to help reduce the symptoms.
Recipe for mouth wash:
* 1 cup warm water
* ¼ teaspoon baking soda
* pinch of salt