Evaluation of pain associated with oral mucositis during the acute period after administration of high-dose chemotherapy

David Cella*, Janis Pulliam, Henry Fuchs, Carole Miller, David Hurd, John R. Wingard, Stephen T. Sonis, Paul J. Martin, Francis Giles

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND. No single oral mucositis (OM) assessment scale is universally accepted; the most commonly used scales are deficient because they combine subjective and objective measures and do not capture the patient's perspective. Because pain is the hallmark symptom of OM, the authors sought to determine whether a simple measure of patient-reported pain was correlated with objective, physician-assessed measures of OM. The findings of the current study may provide a clinical context for understanding the relation between objective indicators and patients' perceptions of OM. METHODS. Three hundred twenty-three patients receiving stomatotoxic chemotherapy and randomized to receive either iseganan or placebo for treatment of OM underwent periodic objective and subjective evaluations of OM. Objective measures included clinician scoring of stomatitis and dysphagia using the National Cancer Institute Common Toxicity Criteria scales. A subjective measure was obtained by having patients complete a questionnaire (with questions based on an 11-point numeric scale) regarding oral pain. RESULTS. More than 90% of scheduled oral assessments were obtained. Mouth pain scores were closely related to stomatitis and dysphagia; peak mouth pain coincided with peak stomatitis and dysphagia. Analgesic use increased by 0.7 days for each unit rise on the pain scale. Patients receiving iseganan had a significantly lower level of peak mouth pain than did patients receiving placebo (P = 0.041). CONCLUSIONS. A separate measurement of patient-reported pain was useful for capturing the patient's perspective on OM and was correlated with the physician's objective assessment. These findings support the use of a simple, patient-reported rating of mouth pain as a clinically relevant and responsive endpoint in clinical trials. This rating system also may provide a straightforward method of following OM in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)406-412
Number of pages7
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 15 2003


  • Dysphagia
  • Iseganan HCl
  • Oral mucositis
  • Oral pain
  • Stomatitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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