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wierd smell/taste associated with oral cancers?

Paintslinger's picture
Paintslinger
Posts: 70
Joined: Jun 2012

Hey Fellow Survivors,
This might sound strange, and maybe a tad morbid, but I was curious about this and have yet to see any information about this. My ex-wife's mother died from lung cancer several years ago. For some reason, I can still--even after all these years--remember a particular smell emanating from her when I was very close to her while she was fighting this thing.The smell itself was not decaying flesh but something hard to describe. I've never smelled anything like it before. For several months before the lump appeared on my neck, if I was in a quiet room with little air movement, etc., I could smell (or at least thought I could)that very same smell. I had no idea at that point that I actually had cancer. Except for some mean acid reflux, I was as healthy as a horse (albeit, a very neurotic horse).
My radiologist said that it might have been dead tissue. It didn't smell anything like decaying organic matter, however. Since my diagnosis I have been around many, many, people who are in various stages of battling this thing and have yet to detect this odor around any of them. Here's where it gets really wierd. I was at work one day a couple of weeks ago and having a conversation with someone. Every time this guy opened his mouth I could smell that same smell. Needless to say when I smelled it, my blood ran cold. I didn't know if it would be appropriate to say anything to the guy because I had no idea how he would react to some wingnut he didn't even know telling him he might have cancer.
Has anyone alse experienced this or know anything about it? Do certain forms of oral, nasal, throat, or lung cancers give off specific odors? If not, am I some sort of "cancer whisperer" Who knows, this could turn out to be some kind of early diagnostic measure.
measure.

CivilMatt's picture
CivilMatt
Posts: 3094
Joined: May 2012

Hi Painslinger,

The nose knows. I don’t know anything about your ability to smell cancer but we do have something called “bionic nose” around here. Many of us have stories about smelling something. For me it was the smell of Jevity, all I could smell was vitamins. Even months after I quit using it I could smell the lingering Jevity vapors.

If you can accurately smell cancer and I was your friend and knowing what I know now I would probably like a heads up. I’d like to be a fly on the wall when you do it.

All joking aside, use your new powers for good.

Best,

Matt

Paintslinger's picture
Paintslinger
Posts: 70
Joined: Jun 2012

Matt,
Yeah, I've experienced that "bionic nose" phenomenon. The one that's most pronounced with me is (believe it or not) freshly washed dishes. If I walk into someone's kitchen I can tell if they've just washed dishes!I was at a "Golden Corral" (a buffet-style restaurant here in Baltimore)the other day and happened to walk by the kitchen and the smell was absolutely nauseating. Wierd, huh?
Everyone's olfactory capacaities are differnt, of course. The same goes for auditory and visual capacities.I was reading an article the other day about some folks who, because of their rod/cone distribution and/or abundance, are capable of seeing colors that the rest of us "normals" can't distinguish from other colors! Pretty wild. In our case, there's no telling what our respective chemo and radiation treatments could do to these systems (e.g., modify them, destroy them, etc., etc.).
Use my "new powers" for good? I actually have a shirt that was a gift from my niece that says "I used to have super-human powers, but my therapist took them a way". Maybe I'll get a mask, a cape, and put a big "C" on my chest and run around sniffing people. I'd probably be on "You Tube" in less than 2 hours. :)
Take care and stay well,
Paul

katenorwood
Posts: 1863
Joined: May 2012

Hey,
I was a direct caregiver to my Mother...and yes there was a distintive smell. But we attributed it to chemo treatments. Believe it or not towards the end of her journey the smell was no longer with her. But saying this for the first 4 mos of my journey after resect., I too smelled a strange hard to place odor. Drove my husband crazy with the febreeze can....lol ! I'm wondering with me if it wasn't old blood needing to be reabsorbed into my body ? Don't know for sure. Katie

Paul just caught your post..lol...could just see you zooming around in your super C costume ! Thanks for the smile !

Paintslinger's picture
Paintslinger
Posts: 70
Joined: Jun 2012

Kate(?),
I know that it might hard to describe but give it a try, I'm curious as to whether it's the same (or similar). Have you cared for other cancer patients and smelled a similar smell?

I used to joke with my girlfriend that when I started getting chemo treatments it would be (for her)like snuggling up with a can of lysol. When I was saturated with cis-platin she said that I smelled like "Simple Green" cleaning solution! Go figure. This is the same woman who put a biohazard sign on my pillow the night after my first chemo treatment. Yes, a sense of humor helps.

Well, if you'll excuse me I have to go find a phone booth near an ambulatory oncology center.

katenorwood
Posts: 1863
Joined: May 2012

Worked in a care center for 10yrs, and yes there was a distinctive smell, hard to describe, (almost metallic) but then I would find out the person was in treatment and it made sense. Definately depends on how long...for instance Mom off and on did chemo 2yrs. It could be certain people just have bionic sniffers....or more sensitive to medicine smells than others.

CivilMatt's picture
CivilMatt
Posts: 3094
Joined: May 2012

Hey Paintslinger,

If I see on the news a story about a guy in a cap with a big “C” on his chest, otherwise known as Paintslinger, I may or may not confirm I know you. If it is true you have a super sniffer then can’t you smell from a distance or do you have to get up close.

Tell me, how good is the Golden Corral? We do not have one around here, but the commercials look pretty good.

Just wondering,

Matt

Paintslinger's picture
Paintslinger
Posts: 70
Joined: Jun 2012

Matt,
Whatever you do, DO NOT tell them that you know me. It could be very bad for your social life!:)! Once I hone my skills, I should be able to just fly by and get a good whiff on the hoof (or cape)!
With regard to The Golden Corral, it depends on what you get. Some things are pretty good, and others not so good. I will say this, however. The place is ideal for cancer victims of our variety, i.e., those that have been treated for oral cancers. As you're well aware our sense of taste gets all whacked out to one degree or another. There are LOTS of things to choose from at this place so you can experiment and see what you can actually taste. I saw the look of surprise on our waitress's face when she kept seeing all these empty plates piling up on our table because I'm pretty thin. She probably thought that I was hiding a dog under our table. I went to lunch with my parents that day and I told them while we were eating that I'd bet that this place was just crawling with oral cancer victims.
I've been amazed at how many foods taste differently when you can't taste the sweet aspect of their flavor. As you might have read in one of my posts, my ability to detect/taste "sweet" is completely gone (bummer). But hey, after reading some of these posts and profiles there are folks out there who are suffering through much, MUCH worse.
Take care (Up, up, and away!)
Paul

ratface's picture
ratface
Posts: 1254
Joined: Aug 2009

I don't remember the specific documentary but do remember that dogs can be trained to smell cancer with great accuracy. Our sense of smell goes through a heightened state of detection immediately after treatment because of our diminished sense of taste. It's a weird body compensating mechanism as any blind person will attest to.

Paintslinger's picture
Paintslinger
Posts: 70
Joined: Jun 2012

Ratface,
Really? That's fascinating. I wonder what they're actually smelling. I've got to do some research on this. Thanks.
Do the cancerous cells/tissues release chemicals accounting for the smells? Are other tissues releasing chemicals as a result of being exposed to or invaded by cancerous cells? Or is it something much more complicated like elevated levels of cells involved in the immune response to the cancerous cells somehow involved in it. Pretty wild.
Thing is, however, I smelled this smell several years before I was even diagnosed with cancer. So essentially, I've been demoted from "Super C" to a german shepherd. Come to think of it, there are those that would agree with that latter characterization!
Take care and I hope that you're well, RF
Paul

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