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Lack of Taste and Swelling, Dry Tongue

Posts: 1
Joined: Oct 2009

I have noticed that the feeling of dehydration (swollen tongue, dry mouth and blah feeling) along with loss (change) of taste is a common theme for those that have had chemo and\or radiation.

Is anyone else experiencing the same problems that have only had surgery? I had my 4th surgery on my tongue, the last bringing a cancer diagnosis and the all these side effects that have lasted almost two years. I lost a pretty good size chunk of my tongue compared to the first 3 pre-cancer surgeries.

My ENT is stumped, Biotene helps a bit but drinking gallons of Gatoraide and/or water is a must.

I wonder if just seriously cutting into the mouth\tongue is enough to cause these problems or is disturbing the cancer the problem?

soccerfreaks's picture
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

Perhaps noone has answered because most folks have not undergone surgery, I venture to guess, without also undergoing at least one of the other two experiences you ask about. The reason, as far as I've been told, is that following surgery the doctors want to zap anything they may have missed with the surgery.

In my case, which included a surgery that replaced half of my tongue with stuff from an arm, I underwent both rads and chemo so perhaps I am not best suited to answer.

I can advise that I was a big proponent of sports drinks from long before my diagnosis, and it was only during the course of follow-on treatment that my oncologist advised that while these drinks serve a purpose, they can be detrimental to my health, as they leech certain vitamins and minerals. He suggested that the best elixir for hydration was simple seltzer water. Ask your doctor about this, of course.

As for your other, implicit, questions, I find, first, that the swollen tongue effect is a direct result of dehydration. If you are not drinking ample amounts of water (as you suggest you are) and, in particular, if you are adding alcohol to your diet, you can be sure that your tongue will be swollen. It is also very important not just to give the Biatene and other oral agents a cursory usage, but to use them religiously, at least every morning and every evening. Speaking to the alcohol deal again, I would recommend highly against using any of the popular mouthwashes, as they are apt to contain alchol (see the above).

If you take nyquil or some other liquid sleep agent, be sure that it does not contain alcohol.

Just a few thoughts about swollen tongue and dry mouth. I will add that there are a number of good posts on this board regarding maintaining moisture in the mouth while awake and about. I use altoids and tic tacs, while others frown on those because of the sugar content and suggest healthier alternatives. Check out some of those posts from the past, if you have not done so.

The problem with your taste buds, David, is probably related to the area of the tongue that was removed. I had the right half of my tongue removed (and replaced with those arm parts) and still have taste. I queried whether certain taste buds (those for sweetness, for example) resided on only one half of the tongue, and was assured this was not the case, and so it has been. If anything, I went back to baby-hood, taste-wise, and have had to rebuild my tolerance for spicy and such.

The blahs are a different story altogether. I am not sure whether you mean that food is boring or that life is tedium, so I will leave that one alone.

Please remember that even now, as you deal with these annoyances, as they certainly are, you are, after all, still here. Start with that, celebrate that, and continue to work with ENT Man to solve your riddle.

Best wishes.

Take care,


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