Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 26, Issue 12, pp 4077–4086 | Cite as

Assessing taste and smell alterations in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy according to treatment

  • Javier Amézaga
  • Begoña Alfaro
  • Yolanda Ríos
  • Aitziber Larraioz
  • Gurutze Ugartemendia
  • Ander Urruticoechea
  • Itziar TuerosEmail author
Original Article



Taste and smell changes are common side effects in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments (CT). This can lead to a reduced food enjoyment and an inadequate nutrient intake with a high impact on nutritional status and quality of life. The aim of this study was to evaluate the self-reported chemosensory alterations of patients undergoing chemotherapy according to CT type.


An observational study was conducted with 151 patients undergoing CT at Oncology Outpatient Unit from Onkologikoa Foundation. An interviewer-assisted questionnaire was designed to investigate chemosensory changes in patients undergoing CT.


Seventy-six percent patients reported taste disorders and 45% smell changes. Xerostomia is the most frequent symptom reported by patients receiving chemotherapy in our study (63.6%), and it is strongly associated to bad taste in mouth (OR = 5.96; CI = 2.37–14.94; p value = 0.000) and taste loss (OR = 5.96; CI = 2.37–14.94; p value = 0.000). Anthracyclines, paclitaxel, carboplatin, and docetaxel were the CT agents producing the highest taste disturbance rates. Cisplatin and 5-Fluorouracil are the CT resulting in the lowest complaints. Logistic regression revealed statistically significant associations between taste loss and carboplatin and docetaxel (OR = 3.50; CI = 1.12–10.90; p value = 0.031) and cold hypersensitivity and oxaliplatin (OR = 12.14; CI = 4.18–35.25; p value = 0.000). Not only platin-based CT such as carboplatin produced dysgeusia, but also anthracyclines and paclitaxel treatments.


The better knowledge of taste and smell alterations according to CT type may provide valuable information for the design of new strategies to tackle CT side effects. It is important to take into account taste and smell dysfunctions and other alterations such as xerostomia together.


Cancer Chemotherapy Xerostomia Metallic taste Dysgeusia 



Many thanks to the patients and their families for participating in this study. The expert assistance in statistics provided by Cristina Sarasqueta, biostatistician from Biodonostia, is gratefully acknowledged. All authors drafted, read, and approved the final version of the manuscript. This is contribution number 865 from AZTI.

Funding information

This work was partially funded by the Basque Country Government (Department of the Environment, Regional Planning, Agriculture and Fisheries).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

We declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

520_2018_4277_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 14 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.AZTI, Food and HealthDerioSpain
  2. 2.Onkologikoa FoundationSan SebastiánSpain

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