What changes could I experience?

The following taste and smell changes are commonly experienced during cancer treatment:

The sense of taste

  • You might have problems identifying certain tastes during treatment, and for some people this may continue for some time after treatment.
  • You might describe food as “not tasting like it used to”. For example, if you have trouble tasting salty, savoury or sour foods, then sweet and bitter tastes might be overpowering.
  • It is common for many people to find bitter foods (e.g. tea, coffee, beer, wine) or sweet foods (e.g. chocolate, sweetened breakfast cereals) unappealing during treatment.
  • Many people start to prefer savoury foods over sweet foods, even if they usually have a sweet tooth.

The sense of smell

  • You may find it difficult to smell things at all, and this, in turn, will make it harder to taste.
  • You might become very sensitive to smells that now seem stronger or different, or may make you feel nauseated.
  • Some people may smell things when there is no odour present.

The sense of touch

  • If your sense of touch becomes highly sensitive, chilli or peppermints might feel too hot; fizzy drinks, including sparkling mineral water, might feel too abrasive; or you might not be able to tolerate the feeling or taste of very cold things, like cold drinks or ice-cream.
  • If your sensitivity is reduced, you might find yourself adding lots of chilli or spice to food.

Changes in appetite or food preferences

Your motivation to eat or drink might change during cancer treatment. You may not be able to tolerate food you previously liked, or you might start to like foods you previously didn’t enjoy. Because cancer treatment can be stressful or associated with unpleasant feelings, such as nausea, certain foods or drinks can become associated with negative feelings. For example, if you associate the smell of pumpkin soup at the hospital with feelings of nausea, you might find it difficult to enjoy pumpkin soup again.

You may lose interest in food in general and find it hard to eat as much as you should. On the other hand, you might find you are craving particular types of food or are hungrier than usual.

The importance of a healthy diet

Eating well is important for anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer. Good nutrition helps the body cope with treatment and the healing process, and boosts energy levels and the immune system.

Changes in your enjoyment of food may lead you to choose less healthy food and drink options. You might find it difficult to follow your regular diet or the eating plan suggested by your treatment team.

If this occurs, let your treatment team know and ask for a referral to a dietitian, who can discuss strategies to make your eating plan easier to follow.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on Taste and Smell Changes.

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Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059


To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in February 2015
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