OBJECTIVES: To determine whether radiation alters taste function and structure. RESEARCH DESIGN: Prospective, longitudinal study. METHODOLOGY: Testing prior to starting radiation, and 2 weeks, 2 months, and 6 months after completing radiation. RESULTS: Relative to controls, patients had lower taste identification test scores for bitter, salty, and sour tastes. Sour taste also showed a significant group-by-time interaction (P = .03). Taste pores were decreased in the irradiated group, with a significant group-by-time interaction (P = .03). CONCLUSION: Head and neck cancer patients have decreased taste function, and radiation adversely affected sour taste and taste pores.
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