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Taste and smell changes in cancer patients

PhD ceremony:Ms I. (Irene) IJpma
When:May 03, 2017
Start:14:30
Supervisors:prof. dr. G.J. (Gert) ter Horst, prof. dr. A.K.L. (An) Reyners, prof. dr. M.M. (Monicque) Lorist
Co-supervisor:dr. R.J. (Remco) Renken
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Medical Sciences / UMCG

Patients with cancer often experience changes in taste and smell perception during chemotherapy. The aim of this dissertation was to investigate taste and smell changes and short- and long-term effects of chemotherapy in a homogeneous population of testicular cancer patients treated with cisplatin-based chemotherapy. Moreover, metallic taste experienced by patients treated for cancer was explored.

The taste and smell function, food preference, dietary intake, and body composition were investigated in testicular cancer patients before, during and after chemotherapy. These parameters were also explored in testicular cancer survivors 1-7 years post-chemotherapy. Over time, taste and smell function was highly variable within and between patients. A transient decrease of subjective taste, appetite, and hunger feelings was observed per chemotherapy cycle. The percentage of fat mass of patients increased during chemotherapy. The bone density decreased. The survivors had a higher body mass index, and more (abdominal) fat than healthy controls. Testosterone level was an important determinant of body composition. The survivors had a lower total taste function and a higher bitter taste threshold. Results indicate that given the heterogeneity of taste and smell changes, dietary advice on an individual base is needed. Additionally, intervention strategies aimed to limit the impact of cardiovascular risk factors should start early, since the body composition of patients already changes during chemotherapy.

Literature review showed that the prevalence of metallic taste ranges from 10% to 78% among patients treated with chemotherapy. Subsequent research demonstrated that also patients treated with concomitant radiotherapy and targeted therapy experienced metallic taste and that it was not characteristic for chemotherapy.