Taste, smell and appetite changes

Some treatments to the head, neck and mouth area may affect your sense of taste and smell. Treatment may change the way the salivary glands work and affect the flavour of food. Food may taste bitter or metallic, or may not have as much flavour as before.

It is important to try to keep eating well so your body gets the nourishment it needs to maintain your weight. If you lose most or all of your sense of taste, focus on other appealing aspects of food, such as the colours and presentation of the meal. You could try experimenting with different textures and temperatures to make food more enjoyable.

It can take several months for taste and smell changes to return to normal, and this may affect your appetite. If you do not regain your full sense of smell, a speech pathologist may be able to teach you a technique to help you regain your ability to smell. In some cases, taste changes may be permanent.

For more on this, see Nutrition and cancer and Taste and smell changes, or listen to our podcast on Appetite Loss and Nausea.

How to manage taste and smell changes



  • Add extra flavour to food if you find it tastes bland, e.g. use fresh herbs.
  • Rinse your mouth before eating to clean any coating from your tongue and help improve taste.
  • If you smoke, try to quit. Smoking reduces appetite and changes the taste of food. Call the Quitline on 13  7848 for support.
  • Drink through a paper or plastic straw so the taste of drinks isn’t as strong. Metal straws may add a metallic taste.
  • Stimulate your appetite with aromatic foods and ingredients.
  • If food tastes “off”, rinse your mouth by drinking tea, or eating ice-cream and soft fruits such as watermelon.
  • Brush your teeth after each meal and use mouthwashes as recommended by your treatment team.
  • Ask to see a dietitian for more suggestions.
  • If you lose your sense of smell, take precautions such as checking the use-by dates of foods and ensuring that the smoke detectors in your home work.
  • If food smells bother you, ask your family and friends to cook for you.
  • Find ways to enjoy food more. Choose foods that are fresh and full-flavoured for a sensation on your tongue.
  • If smell changes stop you eating enough, you may lose weight. Use nutritional supplement drinks to increase your nutrient intake and help maintain your strength and energy, e.g. Sustagen, Ensure or Resource. These are available from many pharmacies and supermarkets.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF fact sheet on taste and smell changes

    Taste and smell changes

  • 66 kB

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

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 September 2019
View who reviewed this content
View our editorial policy

Support services

Life after cancer treatment
Webinars, exercise and nutrition, sexuality programs, and back-to-work support

Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum

Need legal and financial assistance?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment

Cancer information

Nutrition and cancer
Learn about nutrition, and suggest tips for eating well during and after cancer treatment

Managing cancer side effects
Learn more about the range of side effects cancer can cause, and how to manage these

View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends