How does radiation therapy cause esophagitis and mucositis?

The lining of your esophagus (food pipe) is sensitive to radiation and may become inflamed and sore during treatments (a condition called esophagitis). You may feel a burning sensation in your throat or chest, or you may feel as if you have a "lump" in your throat. You may also feel pain when you swallow.

The lining of your mouth, throat, and gums is called the oral mucosa. This lining is also sensitive to radiation, and may also become inflamed or sore during treatments (a condition called mucositis). You may have a dry mouth with thick, sticky saliva. You also may have mouth sores or discomfort when chewing or swallowing. Some patients receiving radiation treatments to the mouth may be referred to a dentist, and most patients will also be referred to a registered dietitian.

The symptoms of esophagitis and mucositis may occur during the second or third week of radiation therapy, and gradually increase during treatment. The symptoms are common and temporary - they will start going away within two or three weeks after the treatment is complete.