Just Diagnosed with Cancer? Chat with Experts

Friday, February 18, 2011 Kate, Community Member, asks

Q: Chemo smell is the worst side effect. Cancer center hasn't heard that one but when I googled it others said they had. Putrid. Moth balls and bad cologne as one person put it. Anyone else? Any tips?

Generally, most other people can't smell it, although my daughter can. It sticks to everything, comes in with every breeze. You can eat for a few short minutes before it catches up then everything, including water, tastes like it. Really foul. Turns the stomach. Eager to hear anything more on this. Thank you so much.
Answer This
Answers (3)
PJ Hamel, Health Guide
2/18/11 8:42am

Are you talking about others being able to "smell chemo" around someone who's having treatment? Or the patient herself, having the "chemo smell" in her nose all the time? If the latter, then it's no doubt related to "chemo taste," which gives you that "tin can" taste in your mouth all the time. And unfortunately, there's no drug you can take and not much you can do about it except simply get through it. Maybe lots of fresh air would help? Sucking on hard candies does seem to help some women with chemo taste; maybe it would help with "chemo smell" as well? Sorry we can't offer more definitive help, this is a tough one... PJH

Nurse Cyndi, Community Member
10/ 2/11 10:53pm
We have the same issue here. My fiance had bladder cancer and had his bladder removed. He is under going 3 cycles of chemo (wk1 cisplatin and gemzar, wk2&3 just gemzar, wk 4 off). Even on his off week, the chemical odor that he emits is very strong. It seems to come out of the skin and especially the urine. (He has a urostomy bag. ) What can be done to lessen the odor? Reply
PJ Hamel, Health Guide
10/ 3/11 8:34am

Cyndi, I don't think anything can be done to eliminate the odor coming from his skin - it's a reaction between the chemicals and his body. What do the oncology nurses say? They're usually the ones with the best tips. I'd suggest loose-fitting clothing, trying to stay cool, and as much ventilation and fresh air as possible... And, at least you know there's an end point here; once the chemo is over, the odor should disappear within a few weeks, or in a month or so at most. Take care- PJH

Hausapa, Community Member
1/ 6/12 7:54pm
You just described my home! I take care of a mentally disabled woman who is going thru chemo. I couldn't figure out what the smell was in my call, my house, everywhere. When I realized it was her I tried everything to rid that horrible smell. I am very sensitive to scents and the migraines I have from this smell are horrible. I don't know what to do. Reply
PJ Hamel, Health Guide
1/ 6/12 8:33pm

Have you tried wearing a mask? Since there's nothing you can do to prevent the odor - it's a reaction between the chemicals and her body – you have to try to keep it from bothering you. This type of mask, with a carbon filter, might be effective for you. Good luck - PJH

Answer This

We hope you find this general health information helpful. Please note however, that this Q&A is meant to support not replace the professional medical advice you receive from your doctor. No information in the Answers above is intended to diagnose or treat any condition. The views expressed in the Answers above belong to the individuals who posted them and do not necessarily reflect the views of Remedy Health Media. Remedy Health Media does not review or edit content posted by our community members, but reserves the right to remove any material it deems inappropriate.

By Kate, Community Member— Last Modified: 09/01/13, First Published: 02/18/11