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Describing taste changes and their potential impacts on paediatric patients receiving cancer treatments
  1. Robyn Loves1,
  2. Gloria Green2,3,
  3. Zakia Joseph-Frederick1,
  4. Sasha Palmert1,
  5. Erin Plenert1,
  6. Tal Schechter3,
  7. Deborah Tomlinson1,
  8. Emily Vettese1,
  9. Serena Zahra1,
  10. Sue Zupanec3,
  11. L Lee Dupuis1,4 and
  12. Lillian Sung1,3
  1. 1Program in Child Health Evaluative Sciences, The Hospital for Sick Children, Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2Division of Clinical Dietetics, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3Division of Haematology/Oncology, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4Department of Pharmacy, The Hospital for Sick Children, Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lillian Sung, Division of Haematology/Oncology, The Hospital for Sick Children 555 University Avenue, Toronto, ON M5G1X8, Canada; lillian.sung{at}sickkids.ca

Abstract

Objectives Taste changes are common among paediatric patients receiving cancer treatments although specific descriptions and associations are uncertain. Primary objective was to describe the number of paediatric patients receiving cancer therapies who experienced taste changes, its impact on food intake and enjoyment of eating, and coping strategies.

Methods This was a cross-sectional study that included English-speaking paediatric patients aged 4–18 years with a diagnosis of cancer or haematopoietic stem cell transplantation recipients receiving active treatment. Using a structured interview, we asked participants about their experience with taste changes, impacts and coping strategies. The respondent was the paediatric patient.

Results We enrolled 108 patients; median age was 11 years (IQR 8–15). The taste changes reported yesterday or today were food tasting bland (34%), bad (31%), different (27%), bitter (25%), extreme (19%), metallic (15%) or sour (12%). Taste changes were associated with decreased food intake (31%) and decreased enjoyment in eating (25%) yesterday or today. The most common coping strategies were eating food they liked (42%), eating strong-tasting food (39%), drinking liquids (35%), brushing teeth (31%) and sucking on candy (25%). Factors significantly associated with food tasting bad were as follows: older age (p=0.003), shorter time since cancer diagnosis (p=0.027), nausea and vomiting (p=0.008) and mucositis (p=0.009).

Conclusions Among paediatric patients receiving cancer treatments, taste changes were common and were associated with decreased food intake and enjoyment in eating. Common coping strategies were described. Reducing nausea, vomiting and mucositis may improve taste changes.

  • cancer
  • paediatrics
  • symptoms and symptom management
  • quality of life
  • supportive care

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Data are available by reasonable request to the corresponding author.

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Data are available by reasonable request to the corresponding author.

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Footnotes

  • Contributors LS conceptualised and designed the study, drafted the initial manuscript, and reviewed and revised the manuscript. RL, EP and EV designed the data collection instruments and coordinated data collection. RL collected data, reviewed data, drafted the initial manuscript, and reviewed and revised the manuscript. SP, ZJ-F and SZa collected data, reviewed data, and reviewed and revised the manuscript. GG, TS, DT, EV, EP, SZu and LLD revised the initial data collection instruments and critically reviewed the manuscript for important intellectual content.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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