Does chemotherapy change the scent of a person's skin?

7 answers | Last updated: Dec 03, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Does chemotherapy change the scent of a person's skin? I am writing a novel and one of my characters is being treated for cancer with chemotherapy and radiation. In one scene her sister is holding her and notices that her skin smells like chemicals. Is this accurate?



Community Answers

Stefanie answered...
It can yes. Even after Chemo has ended. I didn't notice the change in body order until I had stopped chemo for over 1 year. I have heard of people who while receiving chemo treatments smelled badly. No one stated that I did during this time, I couldn't really tell. I was to sick.

A fellow caregiver answered...
I say yes, definitely. My boyfriend is currently in chemotherapy. He has always been one of those men that doesn't really have a scent, even when he works out, but now he very much smells like chemicals. I can smell it on myself after we've been holding hands.

Rn2bsf answered...

It must change scent of skin because the smell of my urine has been terrible since I started chemo 4 years ago due to lung cancer. I haven't recd chemo the last month and yesterday I noticed that my urine doesn't have that funky smell?


Agrace answered...

I didn't notice this when I had the first round of treatments almost ten years ago. However, the same drugs, as well as some new ones, seem to have grossly affected my odors all over, since I began chemo for a recurrence. Fluids, breath, hair, everything smells of chemicals, and it's a strong smell, not a whiff. My laundry definitely smells chemical. This seems logical, given that the drugs have to exit somewhere, and given that my sense of taste and smell changed drastically both times. It's one of the nasty little secrets no one tells you about, and I think someone should mention it along with the warning that you will lose your hair.


Sick of xeloda answered...

Am I too late to add to this? Well, anyway, I can smell a chemical smell on my body...it's 7 weeks since I took a chemo pill.
No one else seems to detect this! Go figure?"??


Dieti answered...

My mother is in the middle of chemo and radiation treatments and I notice a mothball/heavy metal smell when she is in my car. She has always been meticulous about her hygiene so I know she is bathing daily and such. I didn't mention it to her because she is easily upset these days, but today she mentioned that my brother had said something when he drove her to her last appointment. I asked a nurse about this while my mom was getting her radiation and she confirmed that certain chemo combos will cause this.


A fellow caregiver answered...

I've been under the same impression. My significant other's last session was in November last year, but 10 months later it's quite obvious. His clothes don't smell nice (I try to be subtle) especially when he's been sweating -quite stale in fact. The bedsheets have to be changed very often because otherwise I can smell them from my side of the bed. In between two changes I like to wash his pillow cover. This (luckily :) ) never used to be the case. Smelly feet on the other hand have stopped bothering him, they give off a much more neutral smell after a day's work, which is a plus!

I don't know exactly when it started, but it's only this week that I made the connection. Your replies have helped me a great deal. Thank you!

We do hope this is a condition that passes, and otherwise we'll ll learn to live with it.