Patient and Healthcare Provider Resource

Patient and Healthcare Providers Resource, Patient + Healthcare Providers Resource, the Patient and Healthcare Providers Resource

Understanding and Managing Taste Changes

Additional Resources
  • No Additional Resources

Some people notice things taste differently during or after cancer treatment. These taste changes can be caused by many things related to treatment.

Our Supplemental Sheet

This sheet is available to download as an Adobe PDF.

Get Understanding and Managing Taste Changes Supplemental Sheet


UNDERSTANDING AND MANAGING TASTE CHANGES ORAL CHEMOTHERAPY EDUCATION Taste Changes Some people notice things taste differently during or after cancer treatment. Examples of these changes include: o Food tastes differently than before, mainly bitter, sweet, and/or salty foods. o Food smells different or certain smells are stronger. o Food may taste bland. o Every food may have the same taste. o A metallic or chemical taste in your mouth, especially after eating meat or other high-protein foods. What causes taste changes during cancer treatment? Taste changes can be caused by many things related to cancer treatment: o Medications to treat cancer • About half of people receiving cancer treatment have taste changes. • This usually stops 3 to 4 weeks after treatment ends. o Radiation treatment to the head or neck may affect taste buds and sense of smell. • This usually starts to improve 3 weeks to 2 months after treatment ends. • Taste changes may continue to improve for up to 1 year. o Other causes: • Surgery to the nose, throat, or mouth • Dry mouth • Mouth sores • Nausea and vomiting • Dehydration • Heartburn • Medications to help with side effects of cancer treatment How can taste changes be prevented or treated? There are no specific ways to prevent or treat taste changes from cancer treatment. To help, you can try the following: If you have a metallic taste in your mouth: • Use plastic forks, knives, and spoons. • Eat mints, chew gum, or chew ice. • Avoid red meat or try to marinate meat in fruit juices, Italian dressing, teriyaki sauce, sweet and sour sauce, or barbeque sauce. • Other sources of protein you can try are chicken, eggs, fish, peanut butter, beans, and dairy. If foods taste bland: • Brush your teeth before and after each meal. • Eat cold or room-temperature food because it may taste better than hot food. • Flavor food with herbs, spices, salad dressings, or sauces that you like. • Eat fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables instead of canned. • Eat small meals more often. Important notice: The Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC), Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA), National Community Oncology Dispensing Association, Inc. (NCODA), and Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) have collaborated in gathering information for and developing this patient educational supplement. This summarized information represents a brief summary of supportive care information and other resources. This supplement does not cover all existing information related to the possible directions, doses, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks associated with specific medication or adverse events and should not substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional. Provision of this supplement is for informational purposes only and does not constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation, or favoring of this side effect management by ACCC, HOPA, NCODA, or ONS, who assume no liability for and cannot ensure the accuracy of the information presented. The collaborators are not making any representations with respect to the clinical information presented whatsoever, and any and all decisions, with respect to such patient management, are at the sole risk of the individual consuming the medication. All decisions related to education and managing adverse events should be made with the guidance and under the direction of a qualified healthcare professional. Permission: Supplemental Oral Chemotherapy Education (OCE) sheets are provided as a free educational resource for patients with cancer in need of concise, easy-to-understand information about cancer topics and adverse event management. Healthcare providers are permitted to copy and distribute the sheets to patients as well as direct patients to the OCE website for information. However, commercial reproduction or reuse, as well as rebranding or reposting of any type, are strictly prohibited without permission of the copyright holder. Please email permission requests and licensing inquiries to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Copyright © 2022. All rights reserved. Additional Instructions If foods taste salty: • Try low-salt versions of food or add a small amount of sugar to your food. • Drink plenty of clear liquids such as water, flavored water, sports drinks, broth, and decaffeinated tea. Avoid strong smells. • Use a fan, cook on an outdoor grill, or buy precooked food. • Cover drinks and use a straw. • Choose foods that do not need to be cooked. Your taste buds can change because of cancer treatment. Foods you did not like before may taste better. Your cravings may also be different. It is good to try new or different flavors and textures, even if they are something you did not like before. Can taste changes be harmful? Taste changes can lead to loss of appetite and weight loss. It can cause a strong dislike of certain foods, also called food aversions. Taste changes can make it hard for some people to eat healthy foods and maintain their weight. Relieving these side effects are an important part of cancer care and treatment. For more help, talk with your care team or a dietitian.

Our Sponsors