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NCI Monogr. 1990;(9):179-84.

Chemosensory alterations and cancer therapies.

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Section of Otolaryngology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510.


Taste and olfaction provide sensory information and sensory pleasure. Cancer therapies affect both. Chemotherapy has not been shown to produce dramatic losses of taste or smell, but systematic studies on various chemotherapeutic agents and types of cancer are lacking. Radiation therapy does produce clear losses of both taste and smell. Both chemotherapy and radiation therapy alter the pleasure produced by taste and smell through the formation of conditioned aversions. That is, foods consumed in proximity with the nausea of therapy come to be unpleasant. The impact of conditioned aversions can be diminished by providing a scapegoat food just before therapy. Alterations in foods may be beneficial to the cancer patient. Increasing the concentrations of flavor ingredients can compensate for sensory losses, and providing pureed foods that retain the cognitive integrity of a meal can benefit the patient who has chewing or swallowing problems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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