We explored the effects of various parameters on taste impairments (TIs) in head-and-neck (H&N) cancer patients receiving intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT). From January 2014 to September 2017, 88 H&N cancer patients subjected to curative or postoperative IMRT were enrolled in this prospective study. All patients underwent at least 1 year of follow-up after IMRT. Quality-of-life assessments in terms of patient-reported gustatory function were measured using the taste-related questions of the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer H&N35 questionnaires. At a median follow-up time of 27 months, 27 of 88 patients (30.7%) reported long-term TIs. In multivariate analyses, glossectomy most significantly predicted TIs (P = 0.04). The percentage of TIs (61.5%) was significantly (P = 0.03) higher in patients who underwent partial or total glossectomy than in patients who did not undergo surgery (28.0%) and those who underwent radical surgery without glossectomy (20.0%). When we excluded surgical patients from analyses, the mean radiation dose to the oral cavity was of borderline significance in terms of TI prediction (P = 0.05). Only 10.5% of patients suffered from TIs when the mean radiation dose was <5000 cGy compared with 38.7% when the mean dose was ≥5000 cGy. In conclusion, glossectomy is the major cause of long-term TIs in H&N cancer patients receiving IMRT. In patients who do not undergo glossectomy, reduction of the mean radiation dose to the oral cavity may reduce TIs after IMRT.

This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model)