I receive cancer therapy and my mouth is dry, I can't eat. Could this be a yeast infection?
Professor Ourania Nicolatou-Galitis was invited to the Expert’s Session, within the framework of the International Conference “Trends in Medical Mycology – TIMM”, held in Athens, October 20-23, 2023. She presented oral fungal infections in patients with cancer and cancer survivors.
The most common fungal infections of the mouth are candidiasis, caused by the fungus Candida. This fungus is commonly found in the mouths of healthy people at a rate of 20% to 40%.
Candida can sometimes grow and cause candidiasis in some cases where factors are present in the mouth, such as antibiotics, immunosuppression, dry mouth, ulcers (small sores) from chemotherapy, radiotherapy to areas in the mouth, and immunotherapy.
According to studies, during chemotherapy or radiation therapy in the Head and Neck, the Candida fungus is found in the mouth at a rate of 65% to 72%. Mycosis (candidiasis), develops in these cases at a rate of 48% to 38%.
Candidiasis can appear during treatment but also years later, especially after radiation therapy, when the sensation of dry mouth remains. The development of candidiasis aggravates the impact of antineoplastic treatment in the mouth.
What can candidiasis look like? Candidiasis in the mouth may develop as erythema (red areas, red tongue), and/or white pseudomembranes (membranes that peel off). The main symptoms are the alteration of taste and the sudden appearance of dry mouth or as sudden worsening of existing dry mouth. Another form of candidiasis is the so-called candida angular cheilitis, which appears in the angles of the mouth. The mouth, in these cases, hurts and does not open well.
Oral candidiasis has been described as "the disease of the diseased". That is, the healthy person does not or rarely will develop a fungus in his mouth. Oral candidiasis will appear, as mentioned above, when there is a specific risk factor that predisposes and facilitates the growth of the fungus. It is good to know that in the mouth there are many other lesions, red and white, that are not fungal infections.
Our doctor will diagnose the candida infection – candidiasis and will prescribe us the appropriate antifungal treatment.
I sincerely thank the Executive Committee of TIMM 11, Trends in Medical Mycology, Drs Anna Skiada, Jean-Pierre Gangheux, Martin Hoenigl and Emmanuel Roilodes, for the great honor and the invitation to the Group of International Experts to present oral candidiasis.