Radiation therapy that is delivered to the head and neck area can result in xerostomia, a chronic dry-mouth condition that is caused by damage to the salivary glands. You might also experience dryness to the mucous membrane in the nose and sinuses. The treatment protocol is very similar to the treatment of Sjogren’s syndrome: frequent
saline irrigation, emollients, nasal topical antibiotics, and nighttime humidifiers. Saline
rinses are especially important because the normal mucociliary flow is often impeded after radiation therapy. This helps clean the nose and, in many individuals, decreases the amount of infection and crusting and thus makes the nose and sinuses feel more comfortable.
Radiation therapy or cancer itself may cause a change of taste or smell. Your sense of smell and taste can be temporarily or permanently altered, decreased, or may even disappear. Some people even report that they suffer from the presence of a foul sense of smell/taste. If you notice a severely decreased sense of smell, take extra steps to ensure safety around the home with smoke detectors and other appliances that can detect the presence of gas fumes or smoke in the home.
You may notice that even the foods you most enjoy now have a bitter taste or simply have less taste. The following suggestions may help make food taste better:
■ Choose only the foods that continue to look and smell good to you.
■ Serve foods at room temperature.
* Try using additional seasonings, including fresh herbs and spices.
■ Try tart foods (such as oranges or lemons) that may have more taste, unless you are experiencing a sore mouth or throat.