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Managing Taste Changes From Cancer Therapy

You may experience taste changes while receiving cancer therapy. Food may taste bitter or spoiled, or have no taste at all. You may develop a sudden dislike for certain foods. Your sense of taste may return either partially or completely, but it may take up to a year after therapy ends before your sense of taste is normal again.

Please ask your nurse to review this information with you and to answer any questions you may have. Keep your nurse and doctor informed of your concerns about taste changes. A registered dietitian is available to discuss your diet and can suggest ways to improve the taste of foods.

Helpful Hints to Manage Taste Changes

  • Eat small, frequent meals and healthy snacks.
  • Eat when you are hungry rather than at set mealtimes. Be flexible.
  • Make mealtime as pleasant as possible. Prepare foods that look and smell appetizing. Colorful fruit and gelatin salads are good choices.
  • Eat your favorite foods.
  • Make plans to eat with family and friends.
  • Have others prepare the meal.
  • Try new foods when you are feeling at your best.
  • Enjoy a glass of wine or beer with dinner, if allowed with your medical condition and current medication.
  • Silverware may increase the bitter or metallic taste of foods. Try plastic forks and knives instead.
  • If you are avoiding meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, you should increase your intake of other foods high in protein like milk, ice cream, cheese, cottage cheese, and peanut butter.
  • A vegetarian or Chinese cookbook can provide useful nonmeat, high-protein recipes.
    • If you have trouble digesting milk and milk products, speak to your nurse or registered dietitian.
  • Cold plates, such as cottage cheese and fruit or chicken salad, may be more appealing than hot foods.
  • Try sugar-free lemon drops, gum, or mints if you have a metallic or bitter taste in your mouth.
  • Marinate meats with sweet marinades or with sauces like teriyaki or soy sauce. Try different seasonings such as lemon juice, mint, and basil.
  • Try warmed, cured meats such as ham, bacon, sausage, and corned beef.
  • Nutritional supplements can be recommended by a registered dietitian.
  • Your doctor may order vitamin or mineral supplements.
  • If you have a sore mouth, mouth care should be done regularly, especially before and after meals.

Your mouth care:
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If you have a dry mouth, use:
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