Prospective assessment of taste impairment and nausea during radiotherapy for head and neck cancer

Med Oncol. 2019 Apr 9;36(5):44. doi: 10.1007/s12032-019-1269-x.


Dysgeusia and nausea are common side effects observed in head and neck cancer patients treated with either exclusive radiotherapy or combined modality treatment. The aim of the present study was to prospectively evaluate dysgeusia, during treatment and follow-up, using the chemotherapy-induced taste alteration scale (CiTAS), a metrics based on 18-items exploring three dimensions (quantitative and qualitative changes in taste perception, and diet-related issues) identified through a four-factor analysis: decline in basic taste, discomfort, phantogeusia-parageusia, and general taste alterations. Moreover, we scored, according to Common Toxicity Criteria Adverse Events, nausea and other treatment-related toxicities. Since, ginger is traditionally used to prevent and/or treat nausea and vomiting, we prophylactically employed a ginger-based supplement named Naumix/Naugin (Gamfarma, Milan, Italy), to potentially mitigate both nausea and taste impairment. Using the CiTAS scale, we highlighted a progressive increase in all dysgeusia dimensions, peaking at the VII week of treatment and a subsequent partial late recovery. In particular, we observed a recovery for discomfort, phantogeusia-parageusia, and general taste alterations at 6 months. Grade 2 nausea, observed to be as low as 12.9% potentially due to the use of ginger, peaked at the III week of treatment. Finally, for patients experiencing nausea, the dysgeusia dimension of discomfort was also relevant.

Keywords: Chemotherapy; Dysgeusia; Ginger; Head and neck cancer; Nausea; Radiotherapy; Taste impairment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antiemetics / therapeutic use
  • Disease Progression
  • Dysgeusia / diagnosis
  • Dysgeusia / etiology*
  • Dysgeusia / pathology
  • Dysgeusia / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / complications*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nausea / diagnosis
  • Nausea / etiology*
  • Nausea / pathology
  • Nausea / prevention & control
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Taste / radiation effects*
  • Zingiber officinale


  • Antiemetics