Background. Cancer and its treatment therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, have negative
effects on taste and smell functions. It is easy to explain smell and taste dysfunctions when a cancer involves the
peripheric end organs or neurologic pathways of smell and taste. However, it is difficult to understand how distortion
in sensory perception develops as cancer progresses and cancer therapies are applied, because few studies on
this subject have described heterogeneous oncological patient populations who are receiving different treatment
regimens. Methods. A literature review was performed about the chemical senses of the patients with various
cancer types, and also about the possible mechanisms of taste and smell dysfunctions in cancer patients. Results.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy may cause taste and smell alterations by destroying taste and olfactory receptor
cells, creating alterations on the surfaces of cells and receptors as well as interrupting neural coding. The prevalence
of taste dysfunctions in cancer patients has been reported to be up to 77%. Unlike taste dysfunction, diminished sensitivity of smell
in cancer patients is described infrequently and the available literature contains some conflicting results for smell dysfunction in cancer
patients. Conclusion. Further studies are needed on the loss of appetite in cancer patients, and specific treatments should be identified according
to the pathologic mechanism responsible for anorexia and particularly for taste and smell dysfunctions. Because sufficient nutrition
and energy intake can help patients overcome the cancer and its treatment-related complications.
Keywords: Cancer, anorexia, olfaction, taste dysfunction, chemotheraphy, radiotherapy.
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