Characteristics of Oral Problems and Effects of Oral Care in Terminally Ill Patients With Cancer

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Various distresses appear in the terminal stage of cancer. Oral problems including dry mouth, stomatitis and candidiasis are one of the important problems which should be resolved. The purpose of this study was to investigate oral problems in this stage and improvement of dry mouth by oral care.


The study subjects were consecutive terminally ill cancer patients admitted over the past 2 years. Patients were divided based on the status of oral food intake into good oral food intake group (≥30%) and poor oral food intake group. The following 3 items were retrospectively investigated: 1) The incidences of these oral problems, 2) Severity of dry mouth and complication with other oral problems, 3) Improvement of dry mouth using standard oral care by nursing staff and specialist oral care including dentists as needed.


There were 115 and 158 patients in good and poor oral intake groups, respectively. 1) The incidences of dry mouth, stomatitis, and candidiasis were significantly higher in poor oral intake group (p < 0.001). 2) Severe cases of dry mouth (Grade-2&3) were noted in 20.0% and 64.8% in good and poor oral intake groups, respectively (p < 0.0001). Candidiasis complication rate was significantly higher in poor oral intake group (p = 0.0002). 3) The rate of dry mouth improvement by oral care was 100% in Grade-1, 86% in Grade-2 and 81% in Grade-3.


Oral problems occur in many of terminally ill cancer patients. Accurate diagnosis of oral problems and corresponding appropriate interventions are important for improving quality of end-of-life care.

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