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Taste changes in paediatric oncology: longitudinal evaluation


Objectives Changes in taste is a common symptom in paediatric patients receiving cancer therapies. The primary objective was to describe the prevalence of taste changes longitudinally over a 6-month time frame among paediatric patients with newly diagnosed cancer. Secondary objective was to identify factors associated with taste changes over time.

Methods In this longitudinal, single centre study, we included paediatric patients newly diagnosed with cancer within the previous 8 weeks who were 4–18 years of age. Interviews were conducted once monthly for 6 months. We asked participants about their experience with taste changes, whether potential interventions were successful and whether taste changes influenced eating. Risk factors were evaluated using generalised linear mixed-effects models.

Results Overall, 60 participants were included. At baseline, 23 (38.3%) participants reported experiencing changes in taste, with the proportion significantly declining over time to 13 (21.7%) at 6 months. The most common specific taste changes were food tasting different, bad or bland. The most common helpful strategies were eating liked foods only, brushing teeth or using mouthwash, drinking more liquids and eating food with strong flavour. Taste change was commonly associated with eating less than usual and reduced enjoyment in eating. Nausea, dry mouth and recent vincristine were independent risk factors for taste changes.

Conclusions Changes in taste were common within 8 weeks of cancer diagnosis and declined significantly over time. Nausea, dry mouth and recent vincristine were independent risk factors. Future studies should develop and evaluate interventions for managing taste changes in paediatric patients with cancer.

  • Cancer
  • Paediatrics
  • Symptoms and symptom management
  • Supportive care

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. De-identified participant data will be made available upon reasonable request to the corresponding author.

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