Taste and Smell Changes

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Certain medications can change the way the receptors in your mouth and nose tell your brain what you're tasting or smelling. Some foods may taste bitter, rancid, or metallic. Foods that used to be your favorites may taste different while you're getting treatment. This condition usually only lasts as long as treatment does -- in most cases, your will senses will return to normal a couple months after you're done.

The following breast cancer treatments can affect your sense of taste and smell:

Some pain medications also can affect your sense of taste and smell.

Managing taste and smell changes

  • Try new foods. If you find yourself disliking your favorite foods, try foods that are different from what you normally eat. Be sure to try new foods when you're feeling good so you don't develop more food dislikes.
  • Eat lightly and several hours before you receive chemotherapy. This helps prevent food aversions caused by nausea or vomiting after chemotherapy.
  • Ask another person to cook for you, or rely on prepared foods from a store if you can't stand the smell of food. You can also order take-out.
  • Try eating cold foods such as yogurt, cottage cheese, or a sandwich because there will be fewer smells.
  • Try eating with plastic utensils if your food tastes like metal.
  • Rinse your mouth with tea, ginger ale, salted water, or baking soda dissolved in water before you eat to help clear your taste buds.
  • Suck on ice chips in between bites to help numb taste buds.
  • Try other sources of protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, or soy foods if red meat doesn’t taste right. Eggs also have a lot of protein.
  • Eat fresh vegetables. They may be more appealing to you than canned or frozen ones. Canned soups and vegetables may have a metallic taste.
  • Try peeled, sweet baby carrots instead of large unpeeled carrots, which often taste extremely bitter.
  • Don't force yourself to eat foods that taste bad to you. Find substitutes that you can tolerate.

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