Tips for dealing with taste changes if you have pancreatic cancer

Some treatments for pancreatic cancer can make food taste different. The tips on this page may help you deal with this.

Some treatments such as chemotherapy or surgery can make food taste different. Food may lose its flavour or you might be put off your favourite meal or drink. This normally gets better with time. You might find these tips helpful in the meantime.

  • Eat the foods that you do like the taste of and avoid those that you don’t. Try different foods to find some that you like. If there are foods that you have gone off, try them again after a few weeks, as your taste may have returned to normal.
  • If meat tastes bitter or like metal, try marinating it before cooking – for example, leaving it to soak for a couple of hours in wine, barbecue sauce or sweet and sour sauce. Cold meats may taste better served with pickle or chutney.
  • If you find you can’t eat meat, other types of protein include fish, eggs, beans, pulses, lentils, milk, yoghurt and cheese.
  • Try seasoning your food with strong flavourings, such as mustard, herbs, pepper, spices or lemon juice. Or try sharp tasting foods or drinks such as grapefruit, lemon or boiled sweets which may help to stimulate your taste buds and leave a pleasant taste in your mouth.
  • If you do have a sore mouth or mouth ulcers from chemotherapy, it may be best to avoid seasoned or sharp tasting food, as they can sting your mouth.
  • Some people find cold or warm foods easier than hot food.
  • If tea and coffee taste strange, try herbal tea, milky drinks, fruit juices or fizzy drinks.
  • Try to drink plenty of fluids and keep your mouth and tongue clean. Brush your teeth regularly, and try using a soft toothbrush to clean your tongue.
  • Use plastic or wooden spoons for cooking, and reusable plastic cutlery to eat with, rather than metal ones.

Ask your doctor or nurse to check for oral thrush. This can cause taste changes and sickness, but it is usually easy to treat.

Speak to our nurses

You can speak to our specialist nurses on our Support Line with any questions you have about coping with treatment side effects, such as taste changes.

Speak to our nurses
A specialist nurse taking a phone call.

Updated January 2020

Review date January 2023