What can be done to help with taste changes during chemotherapy?
— Name withheld on request
Taste changes are unfortunately a frequent adverse effect of cancer treatment. The exact incidence varies, with studies reporting taste changes in 15% to 100% of patients undergoing cancer treatment. Some studies suggest that the presence of cancer, particularly advanced cancers, may affect taste perception. Chemotherapy or radiation may also cause temporary changes lasting up to several months, or even permanent changes in taste.
Some strategies to help manage taste changes include eating smaller, more frequent meals; changing food selection to include more fats, sauces, or condiments; sweetening foods; eating blander foods; avoiding nonappealing foods; and use of gum, hard candy, or lemon juice between or before meals. Patients with metallic tastes may find that avoiding metal eating utensils or cooking instruments can also help to reduce this.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) publishes a booklet, titled Eating Hints: Before, during, and after Cancer Treatment, that includes helpful eating tips for coping with taste changes and other adverse effects that can affect oral intake. Many patients also benefit from working with a registered dietician to maintain their weight and nutrition intake during cancer treatment.