- Cancer Information
- Managing side effects
- Taste and smell changes
- What changes could I experience?
What changes could I experience?
Changes can vary from person to person.
Learn more about:
Changes to sense of taste
- food has no taste
- food does not taste the same as it did before treatment
- food tastes metallic or you have a metallic taste in your mouth
- food or drinks, such as tea, coffee, beer or wine, taste too bitter
- foods, such as chocolate or sweetened breakfast cereals, taste too sweet.
Changes to sense of smell
- you find it difficult to smell food, which may make it harder to taste
- you are more sensitive to smells
- food smells different
- certain smells may make you feel sick
- you smell things that other people do not.
Changes to sense of touch
- food feels dry and difficult to chew or swallow
- food tastes like cardboard
- you are less sensitive to food such as spicy food
- food tastes too spicy, cold (pins and needles) or “prickly”.
Changes in appetite or food preferences
- you prefer or dislike foods you didn’t before
- you have less interest in food and find it hard to eat as much as you should
- you crave particular types of food or are hungrier than usual
- you dislike foods you enjoyed before as they are linked to negative feelings or experiences. For example, if you connect pumpkin soup with hospital visits, you might find it difficult to enjoy it again.
What to do when changes affect how you feel
Changes to what you can eat, your interest in food and your weight may make you feel anxious. You may also start to avoid social occasions that centre around food, making you feel isolated. These feelings can affect your quality of life. Talk to your doctor, or a speech pathologist or dietitian about how you feel. You can also call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
Emma McKie, Clinical Dietitian, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Cecilia Barling, Consumer; Dawn Bedwell 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Gillian Blanchard, Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Dr Karen Taylor, Radiation Oncologist, GenesisCare Radiation Oncology, VIC.
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