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01-06-2016 | Uitgave 6/2016

Quality of Life Research 6/2016

The impact of taste and smell alterations on quality of life in head and neck cancer patients

Quality of Life Research > Uitgave 6/2016
M. Alvarez-Camacho, S. Gonella, S. Ghosh, C. Kubrak, R. A. Scrimger, K. P. Chu, W. V. Wismer
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s11136-015-1185-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Taste and smell alterations (TSAs) are among the most frequent and troublesome symptoms reported by head and neck cancer (HNC) patients after treatment. Little is known about the relationship between TSAs and quality of life (QoL) among HNC patients. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of TSAs on overall QoL among tube-fed and orally fed HNC patients before treatment, at end of treatment and at 2.5-month follow-up.


Data were collected in a longitudinal study prior to treatment (n = 126), at end of treatment (n = 100) and at 2.5-month follow-up (n = 85). Chemosensory Complaint Score (CCS) and the University of Washington Quality of Life Questionnaire version 3 were used to assess TSAs and QoL, respectively. Generalized estimated equation modeling was used to estimate the effect of CCS on QoL.


At end of treatment, QoL and CCS had declined for both tube-fed and orally fed patients and thereafter improved, but not to pre-treatment levels. Neither QoL nor CCS mean scores were different between the two groups at any time point. CCS was a significant predictor of overall QoL (β = −1.82, p < 0.0001), social-emotional (β = −1.76, p < 0.0001), physical (β = −1.12, p < 0.0001) and overall functions (β = −1.15, p < 0.0001) at a multivariate level. Taste was reported as an important symptom for both tube-fed and orally fed groups at end of treatment and follow-up.


TSAs are an important symptom and an independent predictor of QoL for both tube-fed and orally fed HNC patients. HNC patients need support to manage TSAs, regardless of the method of nutritional intake.

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