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A Meta-Analysis of the Relationship Among Impaired Taste and Treatment, Treatment Type, and Tumor Site in Head and Neck Cancer Treatment Survivors

Laura McLaughlin
Suzanne Mahon
ONF 2014, 41(3), E194-E202 DOI: 10.1188/14.ONF.E194-E202

Problem Identification: To understand how taste impairment caused by head and neck cancer treatment changes over time or varies with treatment site or type.

Literature Search: Ovid MEDLINE® database was searched for reports of health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in head and neck cancer treatment survivors (HNCTS), which included taste function in a HRQOL instrument from 1946-2013. Eligible studies compared taste scores from baseline to post-treatment, using two treatment types or two cancer sites.

Data Evaluation: 247 reports were identified; 19 were suitable for meta-analysis.

Data Analysis: A series of dichotomous meta-analyses were conducted using comprehensive meta-analysis software.

Presentation of Findings: Taste scores were statistically significantly worse after treatment; the summary effect for the standard measure difference between pretreatment and post-treatment taste scores was 0.353 (p < 0.001). Patients treated with radiation therapy (RT) reported statistically significant worse taste function post-treatment than those who received no RT; the summary effect for the standard mean differences in taste scores was 0.77 (p = 0.001). Differences in tumor site were not significant.

Implications for Nursing: Taste dysfunction is a long-term complication for HNCTS, and nurses should screen survivors for this sensory dysfunction.

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