Cancer patients may or may not notice changes in their senses during or post-treatment. Cancer indeed affects the human sense before starts the treatment. Cancer treatments also damage the nerves and block the neurological transmission between the sense organ and brain. Therefore, cancer patients often notice the changes in their senses during or after the post-treatment period. Even environmental changes also impact the taste senses. For example, food that we like most becomes tasteless when we take it in the hospital bed.
Cancer and different treatment approach like radiation, chemotherapy negatively impacted different senses of humans. Taste and smell are two senses that are affected most because of cancer and its treatments. Cancer in the neurologic pathways of smell and taste or at the peripheric end organs leads to smell and taste dysfunctions. But it is very difficult to understand the distortion of sensory perception with the progression of cancer and applied treatment. A literature review result reported that 77% of cancer patients had taste dysfunctions. This review report also stated that smell dysfunction is another less sense distortion associated with cancer and its treatment. Research experts concluded from this literature review that anorexia among cancer patients may have a link with taste and smell dysfunctions.
Following are the impact of the cancer treatment on the sense organs:
Chemotherapy causes cancer cell damage. But along with cancer cells, many healthy cells present in our body including tastebuds are negatively impacted due to chemotherapy. The medicines used in chemotherapy can also affect nerve endings, and also impact the hot and cold foods in the mouth.
Radiation therapy on the head and neck region can destroy tastebuds and salivary glands. Thus cancer patients also have altered taste, smell, or feeling of food.
Surgery at the mouth and nose area affects the tongue, nose, or salivary glands that changes the way taste, smell or feel food.
Cancer treatment affects mouth health
Mouth health is altered because of cancer treatment in the following ways:
Dry mouth – saliva secretion may reduce because of prescribed chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery and make the mouth dry or xerostomia. Saliva plays a role in taste perception by helping tastebuds to recognize the flavors.
Dry mouth can also be a cause of mouth infections or tooth decay that affects taste, smell, or feeling. Therefore, cancer patients need to regularly follow up with the dentist to take care of their mouth and teeth.
Mucositis – Cancer treatment can cause damage to the mucous layer present in the mouth and gut and causes mucositis. Hot, cold, spicy, salty, or acidic foods and drinks often increase sensitivity in the cancer patient. Therefore, cancer patients often suggested taking bland foods.
General recommendations for cancer patients and their caregivers
- Blend new natural products into shakes, frozen yogurt, or yogurt.
- Try utilizing plastic forks, spoons, and blades, and glass cups and plates.
- Try lemon drops, gum, mints, or sugar alternatives.
- Try natural and organic fresh or frozen products rather than canned items.
- Season food sources with tart flavors. Use lemon wedges, lemonade, citrus organic products, vinegar, and salted food varieties.
- Try enhancing food varieties with new preferences or flavors (onion, garlic, bean stew powder, basil, oregano, rosemary, tarragon, BBQ sauce, mustard, ketchup, or mint).
- Counter a pungent taste with added sugars, a sweet taste with added lemon squeeze and salt, and a bitter taste with added sugars.
- Rinse your mouth with salt, baking soda, and water mouthwash before eating to assist food sources with tasting better. (Blend 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon preparing the soft drink in 4 cups of water. Shake the liquid in the mouth for a long time before washing and spitting.)
- Keep the mouth clean and brush teeth to help ease bad tastes.
- Serve food varieties cold or at room temperature. This can diminish the food sources’ preferences and scents, making them easier to tolerate.
- Freeze organic products like melon, grapes, oranges, and watermelon, and eat them as frozen treats.
- Eat new vegetables. They might be more enticing than canned or frozen ones.
- Try marinating meats to make them delicate.
- If red meats taste bizarre, attempt other protein-rich food varieties like chicken, fish, beans or peas, tofu, nuts, seeds, eggs, or cheddar.
- To decrease smells, cover refreshments and drink through a straw; pick food varieties that don’t should be cooked, and try not to eat in rooms that are stodgy or excessively warm.
In many cases, withdrawal of the treatment can stop these signs and symptoms, but sometimes they give a long-lasting effect. However, any of these symptoms require consultation with an oncologist for better management.