Self-reported taste and smell changes during cancer chemotherapy



This study explores the prevalence of self-reported taste and smell changes (TSCs) during chemotherapy and relationships between TSCs and demographic and clinical factors.

Materials and methods

Consecutive patients who had received chemotherapy for ≥6 weeks at 11 outpatient chemotherapy units completed a questionnaire developed for this survey.


Seventy-five percent of the 518 participants reported TSCs, with TSCs more prevalent among women and younger patients. After adjustment for age and sex, we found that patients reporting TSCs more often reported: previous smell changes, less responsibility for cooking, concurrent medication, higher educational levels, and being on sick leave. Participants reporting oral problems, nausea, appetite loss, and depressed mood more frequently reported TSCs. Diagnosis and type of chemotherapy regimen did not predict TSCs.


TSCs were found to be common during cancer chemotherapy and were related to sociodemographic rather than clinical factors. TSCs were also found to be closely related to many other side effects of chemotherapy.

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We thank the following agencies for economic support: the Swedish Health Care Sciences Postgraduate School, Karolinska Institutet (BMB), the Swedish Research Council (CT), and the Cancer & Traffic Injury Fund (project support). The authors also thank statisticians Hemming Johansson and Sara Runesdotter for their advice and support.

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Correspondence to Britt-Marie Bernhardson.

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Bernhardson, BM., Tishelman, C. & Rutqvist, L.E. Self-reported taste and smell changes during cancer chemotherapy. Support Care Cancer 16, 275–283 (2008).

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  • Antineoplastic agents
  • Olfaction
  • Taste
  • Signs and symptoms
  • Survey