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Eur J Oncol Nurs. 2018 Dec;37:43-50. doi: 10.1016/j.ejon.2018.10.003. Epub 2018 Oct 12.

Relationship between subjective taste alteration and weight loss in head and neck cancer patients treated with radiotherapy: A longitudinal study.

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Division of Medical & Surgical Nursing, School of Nursing, Peking University, 100191, Beijing, China.
Division of Medical & Surgical Nursing, School of Nursing, Peking University, 100191, Beijing, China. Electronic address:
ShanXi Hospital of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine, 030013, Taiyuan, China.



To conduct a dynamic and comprehensive evaluation of subjective taste alteration (STA)and identify the association between STA and weight loss in patients with head and neck cancer (HNC) who were treated with radiotherapy.


STA and weight of 114 patients were recorded at baseline, mid-treatment, post-treatment, and one to two months after radiotherapy (follow-up). Generalized estimating equations (GEE) were used to conduct repeated measures analyses of STA and weight loss at four time-points and assess the relationship between them.


The prevalence of STA was 13.2% (baseline), 83.3% (mid-treatment), 92.1% (post-treatment), and 77.9% (follow-up), respectively; the prevalence of ≥10% weight loss increased from 1.8% (mid-treatment) to 44.2% (follow-up). The severity of STA was increasingly poor with radiation therapy and did not return to the baseline level at the follow-up. Meanwhile, the weight of patients did not increase at the follow-up. Among the four subscales of STA (decline in basic taste, general taste alterations, phantogeusia and parageusia, and discomfort), only the discomfort score (β = -2.988; p = 0.005; 95%confidence interval: -5.084-0.891) had a significant effect on weight loss.


The main finding of this study was that STA, particularly the discomfort symptom associated with dietary intake, as a common and persistent symptom among HNC patients during and after radiotherapy, might promote weight loss in patients, which should be afforded greater attention from medical staff.


Head and neck cancer; Longitudinal study; Radiotherapy; Subjective taste alteration; Weight loss

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