Longitudinal comparisons of a whole-mouth taste test to clinician-rated and patient-reported outcomes of dysgeusia postradiotherapy in patients with head and neck cancer and associations with oral intake

Head Neck. 2021 Jul;43(7):2159-2177. doi: 10.1002/hed.26690. Epub 2021 Apr 15.


Background: After head and neck cancer (HNC) treatment, dysgeusia may be a barrier to oral intake. In this exploratory study, we prospectively examined taste perception, clinician-rated (CRO) and patient-reported (PRO) taste changes and their effect on oral intake postradiotherapy.

Methods: Twenty-eight patients were assessed at baseline, treatment weeks 2 and 4, and 1, 3, and 6 months post-treatment using a whole-mouth taste test and associated CRO and subjective PRO measures.

Results: Greater taste impairment was reflected by subjective than by a whole-mouth taste test. The most significant and consistent decline occurred mid-treatment. The Chemotherapy-Induced Taste Alteration Scale (PRO) discomfort subscale correlated significantly with maintaining an oral diet, percent of oral intake, and appetite level from mid-treatment to 6 months post-treatment.

Conclusions: PRO results indicated ongoing oral intake issues. Whole-mouth taste tests may fail to fully reflect functional taste-loss. Dysgeusia prevention and treatment methods are needed to improve patient outcomes.

Keywords: dysgeusia; head and neck cancer; oral intake; treatment; treatment-related toxicities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Dysgeusia* / diagnosis
  • Dysgeusia* / etiology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / radiotherapy
  • Humans
  • Mouth
  • Patient Reported Outcome Measures
  • Taste