How long it takes for your taste to return to normal depends on many things. Taste changes can be temporary and resolve quickly or can be more of a long term problem. One person’s taste can also return more quickly after cancer treatment than someone else’s.
The type and length of treatment and the dose all affect taste. If you are having radiotherapy, the location of the treatment will also affect how long it takes for your sense of taste to return to normal. The recovery of taste is generally greatest in the first year after treatment, but improvements can also be experienced in the second year.
After surgery, taste may also be disturbed for a while due to damage to sensory nerves (nerves that send information to the brain). Cancer itself can also cause changes in taste. It is important to note that each person’s sense of taste can be affected in different ways.
Chemotherapy influences the degree of taste change. A study in women with breast cancer who received chemotherapy after surgery showed that most women experienced a metallic taste the first 5-7 days of treatment. In the third week after the treatment, the metal taste had disappeared, but everything tasted “flat”. Six months after the last course, none of the women indicated that there were changes in taste.
Another study in women with breast cancer found that 20% of women who received chemotherapy after surgery and 16% of women who had surgery alone experienced reduced taste. After a year, there was only a slight difference in taste changes between these groups of women. None of the women who had undergone chemotherapy had a metallic taste after six months.
In another study, people with different types of cancer were interviewed. The results showed that taste returned to normal around 3 days to 14 weeks after the last treatment. Taste often improves for one to two years after chemotherapy. After this period, further recovery of taste is usually minimal. The type of chemotherapy also influences the degree of taste change.
Taste changes occur in a third of patients who have had radiotherapy. Changes in taste or loss of taste mainly occurred with radiotherapy in the head and neck area. Irradiation of the tongue damages the taste buds affecting taste. Irradiation of the nose reduces the sense of smell – a change or reduction in smell can also affect how food tastes.
Having a dry mouth can also affect what you can taste. Some foods don’t have any flavour until they are moistened. A sore or inflamed mouth can also make foods taste different. Treatment of other types of cancer with radiation does not affect taste as much as it does with those in the head and neck area.
Yes. Studies show that regular exercise can bring several benefits when you have cancer. You can also exercise between cycles of chemotherapy. However, it is wise to discuss your exercise plan with a cancer exercise specialist or physiotherapist, as they will be able to advise you on which form of exercise is best for you.
Exercise is a subset of physical activity, and is defined as anything that is planned, structured, repetitive, and includes intentional movement to improve or maintain physical fitness. On the other hand, physical activity is defined as all movement by our muscles that uses energy (such as walking around). Most of the movement we do would be considered physical activity rather than formal exercise (such as going to the gym). Keeping active is about trying to incorporate more movement (in any way that is enjoyable to you) into your day.
Strength-strengthening activities, also referred to as resistance exercise, is a type of exercise that help to build or maintain muscle strength and size. This includes lifting hand weights, and doing exercises that uses your own body weight as push-ups and sit-ups.
Aerobic exercise (also called cardio or endurance exercise) is a type of exercise that works the heart and lungs to help make you fitter – it also means you can do more becoming tired. Examples of aerobic exercise include brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming and dancing.
Cancer and its treatment can lead to frequent feelings of fatigue, a reduced level of fitness, and a loss of muscle size and strength. You may need to rest more often, but studies show that regular physical activity can help to reduce feelings of fatigue and can also improve your mental health. It’s important to make sure that you exercise within your capabilities, and remember that it should not cause pain or discomfort. You can also exercise between chemotherapy cycles when you feel well enough.
You may also find exercising with friends and family helpful – it can make it more enjoyable and helps to keep you motivated. There are now many ways to keep active and exercise at home, such as an online exercise classes, or even just walking around when you are on the phone. It’s about finding something that you enjoy and can do regularly without causing any discomfort.
The benefits of regular exercise during and beyond cancer treatment can help you to have:
Most studies have been done in people with early-stage cancer. However, physical activity can also be good for people with advanced cancer. It can help you to remain independent for as long as possible. Keeping physically active can help you climb stairs, take care of yourself, do your usual daily activities and use the toilet.
Keeping physically active during cancer treatment can improve the effectiveness of the treatment and reduce treatment-related side-effects. Regular physical activity can also help to support the immune system.
Several studies have shown that it is safe to be physically active after a cancer diagnosis. However, it’s important to adjust your exercise routine to how you are feeling. It is better to take it easy and rest if you are suffering from severe fatigue in the first few days after chemotherapy. It is also important to be aware of how you are feeling during exercise. Remember to not push beyond your physical limits and stop if it hurts. Warning signs to watch out for include an irregular heartbeat which is known as heart palpitations, excessive shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea.
Talk to your doctor, cancer exercise specialist or physiotherapist about what type of exercise will best suit you. Some hospitals and physiotherapy practices now offer exercise programs that have been specially developed for people with cancer and people having chemotherapy.
It is important to choose a type of exercise that you feel comfortable with and which you can do safely and without pain. Walking, cycling and swimming are good examples that are accessible to many, and they also help to improve your fitness. Exercise classes to music is another option. This type of aerobic activity can help improve flexibility, and can also help to reduce loss of muscle strength and muscle mass. However, specific muscle-strengthening exercises (such as bodyweight exercises – see the question ‘What exercises can I do at home during or after cancer treatment?’) is a more effective way to prevent the loss of muscle mass and strength that can often occur when going through cancer and its treatment.
Physical activity after a cancer diagnosis can bring many health benefits and improve your mental health. It is wise to discuss your exercise plans with your doctor or oncology exercise specialist first, as they can tell you which types of exercise and activity would work best for you. Together they can help you to draw up a tailored exercise program or to provide ideas for you to keep active that are most suitable for you.
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