Open Access Article

Self-Care Strategies to Cope With Taste Changes After Chemotherapy

Maureen Rehwaldt

Rita Wickham

Sandy Purl

Joseph D. Tariman

Carol Blendowski

Susan Shott

Mary Lappe

ONF 2009, 36(2), E47-E56. DOI: 10.1188/09.ONF.E47-E56

Purpose/Objectives: To describe factors related to taste changes, to examine patients' use of a self-care suggestion sheet to manage taste changes associated with chemotherapy, and to identify potentially useful strategies for managing specific taste changes after chemotherapy.

Design: Quasi-experimental, pre/post design.

Setting: Four outpatient urban and suburban oncology centers in Illinois.

Sample: 42 patients who had received at least two cycles of chemotherapy previously identified to be associated with taste changes.

Methods: Pre- and postintervention survey of taste changes; patient education regarding self-care for taste changes.

Main Research Variables: Taste changes, taste change strategies, and self-care.

Findings: Most patients that reported taste changes had affected their ability to eat. Taste changes and strategies varied somewhat according to chemotherapy regimen. Avoiding strong-smelling or -tasting foods, eating blander foods, drinking more water with foods, oral care before eating, and eating smaller, more frequent meals were reported to help.

Conclusions: Taste changes are common in patients receiving cisplatin, carboplatin, or cyclophosphamide. At-risk patients may benefit from prechemotherapy teaching regarding specific taste change management suggestions. Use of a taste change suggestion sheet encouraged self-care, and counseling patients regarding strategies to deal with taste changes may help them during chemotherapy.

Implications for Nursing: Nurses should incorporate patient education tools that promote self-care regarding the management of taste changes in patients with known factors that could affect taste early in their chemotherapy.

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