Eating and drinking is an every day essential, as well as one of life’s pleasures that can celebrate any special occasion. For most of us, the ability to eat and drink is something we take for granted as the center of nearly everything we do. However, for head and neck cancer patients, the ability to carry out an everyday activity such as to eat and drink can be severely affected and can cause both physical and psychological side-affects.

The Making Meals Make Sense cookbook, produced by the Make Sense campaign has been created by survivors in the aim to help patients, survivors and their caregivers by providing information on nutrition and guidance on cooking meals that are nutritious as well as tasty.

Each of the recipes that have been used have been used and recommended by those that have been through head and neck cancer treatment themselves. Through this cookbook you will read about their real-life experiences and challenges, including the physical and psychological difficulties. Crucially they will also tell you all about how they managed to overcome these challenges alongside their advice and ‘top tips’.

There is no ‘typical’ case of head and neck cancer. It is an extremely diverse disease and side-effects can depend on the type of treatment or area that is being treated. There have been many developments in these treatments with new, innovative therapies greatly improving outcomes for patients. However, with longer life expectancy post-treatment, there are more people facing the side affects and they can be long lasting.

So, what are these side-effects and what can patients expect after their treatment?

  • Difficulty chewing
    • This can occur after surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy and leads to swelling, soreness and difficulty opening the mouth (trismus).
  • Difficulty swallowing
    • Food can be inadvertently directed into the windpipe or nasal cavity, causing numerous issues including the overproducing of saliva, repeated chest infections, weight loss, coughing when eating and experiencing a gurgling sound when speaking.
  • Loss of taste
    • Some treatments like radiotherapy and chemotherapy can impact the ability to taste and smell due to damage done to taste buds and salivary glands. Food can sometimes have a metallic, bitter or salty taste accompanied by a stinging or burning sensation.
  • Dry mouth
    • Chemotheray and radiotherapy can lead to dry mouth, known as xerostomia, a consequence of not producing enough saliva.
  • Psychological impact
    • These impacts are not visible but can be the most impactful and damaging. Food and drink are a huge part of social interactions and can have a detrimental effect on a person’s social life.

The recipes were submitted by survivors from across Europe hoping to help fellow survivors to adjust to the changes they may experience while retaining a healthy, nutritious diet to maintain energy levels and improve overall outcomes post-treatment.


Each individual experience is unique, and its crucial to raise awareness of the physical and psychological challenges head and neck cancer survivors face in their daily lives. This is just one resource that hopes to make the journey a little easier!  


To find out more about the campaign and download the cookbook follow the links:

Make Sense campaign: https://makesensecampaign.eu/en/

Making Meals Make Sense Cookbook