Taste alterations and cancer treatment

Curr Opin Support Palliat Care. 2018 Jun;12(2):162-167. doi: 10.1097/SPC.0000000000000346.


Purpose of review: In this review, we explore issues on the physiology of taste and smell and we critically review recent literature of taste and smell changes and the impact on food preferences throughout the cancer treatment trajectory.

Recent findings: Subjective measurements such as validated questionnaires can be valuable for the clinical setting and many studies describe taste and smell changes by self-report. Because both smell and taste are interrelated, these subjective results are difficult to interpret. Recent studies have looked more specifically at one type of malignancy with a consistent and homogeneous treatment with chemotherapy using objective taste assessment such as electrogustometry, liquid tastants or filter paper strips.

Summary: Taste is a combination of different sensations: smell, texture, temperature and saliva play an important role in determining the overall flavor of food. The mechanism for taste and smell abnormalities in cancer patients treated with systemic therapies remains unclear.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Olfaction Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Olfaction Disorders / diagnosis
  • Olfaction Disorders / physiopathology
  • Palliative Care
  • Receptors, Odorant / metabolism
  • Taste Buds / physiopathology
  • Taste Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Taste Disorders / diagnosis
  • Taste Disorders / physiopathology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Receptors, Odorant