Importance of sensory alterations for cancer patients with taste alteration

The Journal of Supportive Care in Cancer published a new study, showing that taste and smell alterations are common in patients receiving systemic antitumor therapy and that nutritional support specifically designed to better address sensory alterations, is appreciated in these patients.

Common in patients with cancer undergoing systemic anti-cancer, taste and smell alterations may develop throughout the course of cancer (before and during) and last up to one year after treatment1, with up to 70% of cancer patients experiencing taste changes during chemotherapy and radiotherapy2.

Sensory alterations in advanced cancer are associated with a substantial decrease in caloric intake, increase risk of malnutrition, poorer social-emotional function and overall quality of life. Nutritional interventions in cancer patients such as Oral Nutritional Supplements (ONS) can improve overall energy and protein intake, overall body weight, muscle mass and quality of life.

In line with previous findings, this new study called “Self-reported taste and smell alterations and the liking of oral nutritional supplements with sensory adapted flavours in cancer patients receiving systemic antitumor treatment” shows that:

  • Overall, 60% of patients who participated in this study reported taste alterations, and taste alterations were reported to adversely impact on patients daily life.
  • Patients with taste alterations demonstrated a large variation in overall liking score per ONS flavour compared to patients without taste alterations.
  • Sensory adapted flavours appear to be appreciated in patients with taste alterations and appreciation of taste can impact product adherence and ultimately patients’ recovery.

It is important healthcare professionals consider above findings when selecting or prescribing Oral Nutritional Supplements for cancer patients and take into consideration ONS flavors preferences for better product adherence.

  1. Spotten LE, et al. Subjective and objective taste and smell changes in cancer. Ann Oncol. 2017 May 1;28(5):969-984.
  2. Ruxton C. Compliance with ONS and the Role of Taste. CN Focus. 2014; (Vol. 6, No. 2).
  3. Hubbard GP, et al. A systematic review of compliance to oral nutritional supplements. Clin Nutr. 2012 Jun;31(3):293-312. 


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