How long before my taste buds recover after H&N treatments?

Posted by calenbd @calenbd, Sep 27 9:47am

I have completed 35 treatments of radiation and chemotherapy two weeks ago for squamous cell cancer in my tongue and lymph node. I’m just wondering how long before I can expect my taste buds to recover so I can taste good again? I’m currently on a feeding tube, but my throat pain and mucus is diminishing, so I am looking forward to eating solid foods again.

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@calenbd, I suspect the answer as to how long before your taste buds recover after chemo and radiation is different for everyone. Let me bring @alpaca @wretired2000 @loli @nbkod7b @thomason @fwpoole @cooper12345 @rwdow @leelee70 @hrhwilliam and others into this conversation to share their experiences, timeline and tips.

In the meantime, here's a related discussion:
– When will food taste good again after chemo and radiation? https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/trying-to-get-food-into-husband-after-chemo-and-radiation/

I bet you're looking forward to the feeding tube removal. Do you have a target date for that yet?

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Thanks for the reply. I think removal of the feeding tube will happen when I can bring myself to eat solid food again. Right now the taste is so terrible that I can’t bring myself to eat yet. I can swallow liquids now, but the taste of regular food makes me sick to my stomach.

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@colleenyoung

@calenbd, I suspect the answer as to how long before your taste buds recover after chemo and radiation is different for everyone. Let me bring @alpaca @wretired2000 @loli @nbkod7b @thomason @fwpoole @cooper12345 @rwdow @leelee70 @hrhwilliam and others into this conversation to share their experiences, timeline and tips.

In the meantime, here's a related discussion:
– When will food taste good again after chemo and radiation? https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/trying-to-get-food-into-husband-after-chemo-and-radiation/

I bet you're looking forward to the feeding tube removal. Do you have a target date for that yet?

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calenbd,
After 35 radiation sessions, I lost my voice for over one year. I was on a feeding tube for several months and completed two swallow studies. My feeding tube fell out right when I was starting to eat again. The food did not taste the same for many months but started tasting good again…slowly. I thank God every day I can eat and drink. Red light therapy is one technique I utilized at home. It is just an inexpensive wand that I aimed at the back of my throat every single day of radiation treatment, and thereafter. It takes time, so just have patience. By the way, the therapist did not believe it when I refused to have the tube put back in. If you do not "use it, you will lose it." It may not work for everyone, but don't always listen to everything your told. Best wishes to you.

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Your taste may take weeks if not months to get back to some sort of normal. I sure don't miss those days when most things tasted of metal or just plain yuck. But the first time I could actually taste chicken soup, my wife saw me with tears rolling down my cheeks. In my experience (which is about all we can relate), some taste has never been the same whilst others have changed for the better I believe. For example, tangy or spicy foods are no longer in my diet while desire for sweets has also diminished, which is probably a good thing.
All of this recovery will take weeks, months, and even years in some cases. You most likely will never be the same when it comes to taste, eating, and saliva, as well as perhaps swallowing. Every little new issue will give you pause to think the cancer has returned when in fact you could just have a cold sore or common cold. For me those thoughts went away after about fifteen years.
As I have told others, we cannot hold you; we cannot carry you. But we can listen to you, talk with you, and pray for you. It's a tough battle but a win-able battle. Time will heal so please keep the faith. Good luck.

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Hi, my experience was and currently is that the taste of all foods, since radiation, has changed completely.
Some foods that I enjoyed before my radiation journey, I can not eat. (i.e. red meat). Other than the taste,
the texture of meat will not go down my throat. I have had to limit what I eat to fish, moist chicken, fruits and
vegetables. However, I have acquired a different taste than before radiation. It has been 5 1/2 years since I
finished my treatment and I have adjusted to my new eating routine.
I have accepted that this is the way things will be…but I am alive and that is all that matters.
God Bless and Take It One Day At A Time!

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I remember when I was being irradiated in 1976. I was drinking a lot of Coca-Cola in the hospital and another patient told me that I would never want to drink Coke again. That prophecy was correct. Coke has lost that wonderful refreshing taste and it just doesn’t work well in a mouth that lacks saliva. It leaves behind a nasty film that gums up my teeth and tongue. (For some reason Dr Pepper doesn’t cause the same problem.) I was eventually able to drink orange juice again. Most other foods were back to tasting normal within a month after radiation treatments ended, I think.

You might not know that you “forget” how to chew and swallow food while you are on the feeding tube. You will have to relearn that. Speech-language pathologists can help with that. SLPs really know their stuff. You will probably bite your tongue a few times before your mouth learns how to chew correctly again. I guess that’s one reason to keep trying to eat even if food tastes like cardboard. Your mouth really does need practice and exercise.

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My husband went through this last year. About 4 month after treatment ended, his taste was starting to come back. It was a little more than 6 months after treatment that he felt his taste was back. Some tings taste different than before treatment.

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