Patient / Survivor Header
Page 1 of 2 1 2 >
Topic Options
#147913 - 04/07/12 04:35 PM Intensified sensitivity to smell, people's breath
terrib Offline
Senior Member (100+ posts)

Registered: 02/05/12
Posts: 143
Loc: MN
After just completing radiation and chemo this week my husband is still having such sensitivity to smell, mainly to people's breath. (This started about 3 weeks ago)Even after brushing my teeth and using mouth wash he still finds it almost nauseating. When the doctor was checking his mouth and neck he couldn't wait for her to back off since he finds it so offensive. He says our dogs breath isn't bad!! I wonder if it the spicy things like it salad dressing that linger, he can really detect garlic. Since it takes awhile for people to get back to eating spicy foods I wonder if there is some correlation??


Edited by terrib (04/07/12 04:38 PM)
_________________________
Husband diagnosed Oct '11 Cancer of the vocal cord Nov '11 removed right vocal cord. Neck Dissection, cancer in one node, .2, very small & contained) Jan '12 Radiation and Cisplatin, 6 doses. June '12 & Dec '12 clear Pet scan. April '13 Celebrating 1 year cancer free since treatment ended.

Top
#147924 - 04/07/12 10:48 PM Re: Intensified sensitivity to smell, people's breath [Re: terrib]
Anne-Marie Offline
Patient Advocate (old timer, 2000 posts)

Registered: 11/03/06
Posts: 2604
Loc: TN
There is a correlation between sense of taste and that of smell so that whatever it is we are smelling, the molecules that are released from what is smelled, get into the air and into the nose. For someone going through the taste changes and the way tastes are sharpened, the odors must be sharpened to a great degree, making them quite offensive. When my son's taste buds started to recover, I noticed that he would spend several minutes putting his head down and smelling everything for several seconds. I asked him about this and wondered if he thought I had prepared something that didn't turn out right. He said that although he could not taste things very well, smelling them gave him some of the same enjoyment he formerly had with being able to taste. There is a student paper (see second paragraph that discusses this correlation at:
http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1575
When I first became aware of what the molecules from certain items (which may not be quite so pleasant) can travel and get to our breathable air, I was a little shocked. And now, I always put the cover down on the toilet. smile
_________________________
Anne-Marie
CG to son, Paul (age 33, non-smoker) SCC Stage 2, Surgery 9/21/06, 1/6 tongue Rt.side removed, +48 lymph nodes neck. IMRTx28 completed 12/19/06. CT scan 7/8/10 Cancer-free! ("spot" on lung from scar tissue related to Pneumonia.)




Top
#147926 - 04/08/12 12:06 AM Re: Intensified sensitivity to smell, people's breath [Re: Anne-Marie]
klo Offline
"OCF Down Under"
"Above & Beyond" Member (500+ posts)

Registered: 05/18/10
Posts: 638
Loc: Sydney Australia
Fascinating question and observations. I am not sure it is a heightened sense of smell so much as a distorted one though.

Alex is the cook in our family and when he was trying to get back to eating, he would cook whatever appealed to him for me to eat and for him to taste. By the time he was half way through cooking he would have lost his appetite and feel nauseous. We came to the conclusion that ANY cooking smells were either distorted or an overload for Alex. Eating out or using pre-packaged meals solved this problem to some extent.

To our great surprise the smell of eggs made Alex sick. He also complained that I smelt like "trees" (I think he meant the dank, wet, rotting, foresty smell, as I did not get the impression this was a good thing frown )

The other thing I remember quite clearly, was Alex's complete reversal of some taste sensations. We went to a Malaysian restaurant and ordered two dishes. One contained chilli. Whilst Alex couldn't eat it so much as taste it(couldn't swallow too well) he said he quite liked the flavour although it was not as expected. The second dish which had no heat in it in my opinion, nearly took his head off!! At first I thought it was chemo brain and he had got the two dishes mixed up. I had to call the waiter over to list the ingredients for each dish and tell Alex which was the spicy one. Even knowing this, Alex still thought the mild dish was the spicy one and the spicy one was ok.

I have a feeling this also started pre-radiation which suggests chemo plays a bigger role in this that we give it credit for.

He is good with tomatoes which seems to be a common fruit that others can't tolerate, can't stomach eggs, can't deal with mashed potato and gravy and seems to be better with sweet rather than savoury. Can taste and actually enjoys a dark beer (sorry,don't know what sort that is), is ok with apple juice but can't deal with orange. Loves the taste of parsley!!! Damn shame parsley has no calories or nutritional value (unless served by the shipload of course).
_________________________
Karen
Love of Life to Alex T4N2M0 SCC Tonsil, BOT, R lymph nodes
Dx March 2010 51yrs. Unresectable. HPV+ve
Tx Chemo x 3+1 cycles(cisplatin,docetaxel,5FU)- complete May 31
Chemoradiation (IMRTx35 + weekly cisplatin)
Finish Aug 27
Return to work 2 years on
3 years out Aug 27 2013 NED smile
Still underweight

Top
#147927 - 04/08/12 12:07 AM Re: Intensified sensitivity to smell, people's breath [Re: Anne-Marie]
ChristineB Offline
Administrator, Director of Patient Support Services
Patient Advocate (old timer, 2000 posts)

Registered: 06/23/07
Posts: 8513
Loc: PA
I also have a super sensitive sense of smell now. I figured it was from the radiation.

All kinds of little annoyances come with fighting cancer. Best wishes with his continued recovery.
_________________________
Christine
SCC 6/15/07 L chk & by L molar both Stag I, age44
2x cispltn-35 IMRT end 9/27/07, no caregiver
Clear PET 1/08
4/4/08 recur L chk Stag I
surg 4/16/08 clr marg
215 HBO dives
3/09 teeth out, trismus
7/2/09 recur, Stg IV
8/24/09 trach, ND, mandiblctmy
3wks medicly inducd coma
2 mo extended hospital stay, ICU & burn unit
PICC line w/ IV antibiotics 8 mo
10/4/10, 2/14/11 reconst surg
OC 3 times in 3 years
very happy to be alive smile

Top
#147928 - 04/08/12 12:13 AM Re: Intensified sensitivity to smell, people's breath [Re: ChristineB]
klo Offline
"OCF Down Under"
"Above & Beyond" Member (500+ posts)

Registered: 05/18/10
Posts: 638
Loc: Sydney Australia
HI Christine
Your heightened sense of smell: Do things bother you now that didn't before? Do things smell differently to before, or do things smell that didn't before? Or maybe a combination of all of the above ...
_________________________
Karen
Love of Life to Alex T4N2M0 SCC Tonsil, BOT, R lymph nodes
Dx March 2010 51yrs. Unresectable. HPV+ve
Tx Chemo x 3+1 cycles(cisplatin,docetaxel,5FU)- complete May 31
Chemoradiation (IMRTx35 + weekly cisplatin)
Finish Aug 27
Return to work 2 years on
3 years out Aug 27 2013 NED smile
Still underweight

Top
#147936 - 04/08/12 12:55 AM Re: Intensified sensitivity to smell, people's breath [Re: klo]
klo Offline
"OCF Down Under"
"Above & Beyond" Member (500+ posts)

Registered: 05/18/10
Posts: 638
Loc: Sydney Australia
PS for Christine - also, what about giving up smoking. Since giving up, I can smell sweat in the lift now that the lifetime non-smokers don't seem to notice. Also, I can smell smoke at a 100 paces, including on the breath of people when I am talking to them and who haven't smoked in an hour or more. Do you think your heightened sense of smell is partly due to giving up smoking, or something completely different?
_________________________
Karen
Love of Life to Alex T4N2M0 SCC Tonsil, BOT, R lymph nodes
Dx March 2010 51yrs. Unresectable. HPV+ve
Tx Chemo x 3+1 cycles(cisplatin,docetaxel,5FU)- complete May 31
Chemoradiation (IMRTx35 + weekly cisplatin)
Finish Aug 27
Return to work 2 years on
3 years out Aug 27 2013 NED smile
Still underweight

Top
#147941 - 04/08/12 02:13 AM Re: Intensified sensitivity to smell, people's breath [Re: klo]
Anne-Marie Offline
Patient Advocate (old timer, 2000 posts)

Registered: 11/03/06
Posts: 2604
Loc: TN
I've always had a heightened sense of taste and smell and I never smoked nor had cancer. I can taste when a tomato or salad item has gone bad before it is noticed by others. Lots of people are like that and are called "super tasters". Maybe radiation has a side "benefit" in that it provides for a heightened sense of taste. Re smokers, I don't think they can taste things as well as non-smokers and that's probably why when they quit, they can taste things better which encourages more eating and gaining weight. My ex (a smoker & now deceased) had a big hissy fit once, when he accused me of putting mayonnaise on his pork sandwich that he took to work. And it wasn't even pork, it was turkey! So I know his taste was off probably because of smoking. Karen, I do think quitting smoking gives you a heightened sense of smell A smoker gets used to the smell. It's like when people live close to an evil smelling paper factory or some other evil smelling area. When they live with it, after a while they don't notice it.
_________________________
Anne-Marie
CG to son, Paul (age 33, non-smoker) SCC Stage 2, Surgery 9/21/06, 1/6 tongue Rt.side removed, +48 lymph nodes neck. IMRTx28 completed 12/19/06. CT scan 7/8/10 Cancer-free! ("spot" on lung from scar tissue related to Pneumonia.)




Top
#147945 - 04/08/12 03:00 AM Re: Intensified sensitivity to smell, people's breath [Re: Anne-Marie]
Kerri Offline
"Above & Beyond" Member (500+ posts)

Registered: 08/08/11
Posts: 508
Loc: MA
There are some very interesting points being made here. Smoking is notorious for deadening the senses of smell and taste. Fortunately, it recovers fairly quickly after quitting.

I have always say "I have a nose like a hound." because I smell things that others do not or perceive them at very small concentrations. Perhaps it is just the way some of us are "wired". But, I also like Karen's point about chemo playing more of a role in the whole taste/smell perception aspect. Our brains are amazing organs that can play tricks on us if there is even the slightest change in physiological balance.

I am reminded that with both of my pregnancies, my first symptoms were hypersensitivity to smell and altered sense of smell. I remember that I couldn't drink out of our water glasses because everything smelled and tasted foul. We used to store the glasses rim-side-down and I could sense the smell/taste of the shelving in a the cabinet. Many things like this happened before I even knew I was pregnant...and believe me when I tell you...we tested as soon as we could when we were trying to have kids!

Also, I couldn't stand the smell of coffee (which I normally love); the smell of shampoo, soap, and deodorant sickened me. I couldn't stand being near my poor husband! I had to get all unscented products. We all know that these changes are due to the flux in brain chemistry/hormonal balance that is occurring rapidly during early pregnancy. So, the changes in brain chemistry from chemo may play more a role than we think. It makes sense to me, anyway.

I think the other changes that occur during/post radiation such as loss of taste, intolerance to certain textures, etc. could be explained, in part, due to the lack of saliva and mucousal damage and all of the other horrible things that radiation does to you.

For all of you who are suffering with these issues, I do hope that they pass with time. Some things may never be the same, but hopefully they will improve/normalize over time.

At least we know that we are not "crazy" or "imagining things". If I smell something that someone else can't smell, I joke that "I must be having an olfactory hallucination!".
_________________________
37 y/o fem at Dx (23 wks preg @ dx on 3/16/11)
SCC L oral tongue (no risk factors)
L partial gloss/SND 3/28/11 @ 25 wks preg
T1-2N0M0; no rads/chemo
Tonsillectomy on 8/6/12 +SCC L tonsil T2-3N1M0 (HPV-)
Treated with 35 rads/7 carbo & taxol (Rx ended 10/31/12), but many hospitalizations d/t complications from rx.
Various scans since rx ended are NED!
Part of genetic study for rare cancers @ MGH.
Just turned 40 and grateful! Hoping for 40 more!

Top
#147955 - 04/08/12 12:30 PM Re: Intensified sensitivity to smell, people's breath [Re: Kerri]
Anne-Marie Offline
Patient Advocate (old timer, 2000 posts)

Registered: 11/03/06
Posts: 2604
Loc: TN
Kerri - Maybe it's not an "olfactory hallucination" but "an olfactory revelation" and protection from something that may not be good for us (I had the same newly pregnant issue with coffee in my 20's). Whenever I'm in a restaurant salad bar, and discover something that I know is going bad, it's a struggle for me to quietly tell one of the assistants that a certain item is going bad. Fortunately most of them have food inspectors to make sure everything is fresh and at the right temperature. For those recovering from radiation, perhaps the changes in taste may not always be a bad thing but just a sign that it should be avoided. In addition to certain tastes, during radiation, my son's sense of sound was sharply affected as well as sensitivity to light so we kept everything around him quiet and in very low light.
_________________________
Anne-Marie
CG to son, Paul (age 33, non-smoker) SCC Stage 2, Surgery 9/21/06, 1/6 tongue Rt.side removed, +48 lymph nodes neck. IMRTx28 completed 12/19/06. CT scan 7/8/10 Cancer-free! ("spot" on lung from scar tissue related to Pneumonia.)




Top
#147961 - 04/08/12 02:21 PM Re: Intensified sensitivity to smell, people's breath [Re: Anne-Marie]
Charm2017 Offline
Patient Advocate (old timer, 2000 posts)

Registered: 03/03/08
Posts: 3082
Loc: Alexandria VA
Hey Terri, this happened to me too !
Interesting topic: There have been many studies on the effect of radiation to smell and taste. The ones I read describe the different type of damage radiation does to the sense of taste that we are all familiar with but conclude that the sense of smell recovers better and quicker. Some note in passing that the sense of smell of radiated patients is often better than control groups of non cancer patients.
My personal experience is that I now can detect faint odors that before I would not have noticed, especially food related ones and personal hygiene.
The studies also note the difficulty in separating the gustatory (taste) and olfactory (smell) systems since they are so intertwined in our bodies.
None really focused on this aspect - or rather none that I found.
Charm


Edited by Charm2017 (04/08/12 02:22 PM)
Edit Reason: typos
_________________________
65 yr Old Frack
Stage IV BOT T3N2M0 HPV 16+
2007:72GY IMRT(40) 8 ERBITUX No PEG
2008:CANCER BACK Salvage Surgery
25GY-CyberKnife(5) 3 Carboplatin
Apaghia /G button
2012: CANCER BACK -left tonsilar fossa
40GY-CyberKnife(5) 3 Carboplatin

Passed away 4-29-13

Top
Page 1 of 2 1 2 >


Moderator:  Eva Grayzel 
Support OCF


Help OCF

Shop Amazon and Help OCF

Who's Online
1 registered (MrStressed88), 38 Guests and 5 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Forum Stats
10183 Members
23 Forums
16093 Topics
182536 Posts

Max Online: 141 @ 05/15/13 10:09 AM
Top Posters
ChristineB 8513
davidcpa 8309
Cheryld 4976
Brian Hill 4685
Gary 3544
Newest Members
Allan H, docdorrance, HeatherB, Bluecrab, Cindy54
10183 Registered Users
Brag Box