The aim of this observational study was to evaluate acute cytological and olfactory alterations during RT and their correlation with RT doses.

Ten patients who underwent RT for HNC, excluding tumors of the nasal cavities, were evaluated with nasal scraping for cytological examination, Sniffin’ Sticks test for olfactory assessment, and Nasal Obstruction Symptom Evaluation scale. The analyses were performed before (T0), at mid-course (T1), and the end (T2) of RT. They were repeated 1 and 3 months after RT (T3 and T4). Dmean and D2% to nasal cavities and inferior turbinates were used for correlation analyses.

Radiation-induced rhinitis was present in 70% of patients at T2, and it was still observed in 40% of cases after three months. Although olfactory function remained within the normal range at the evaluated times, a significant decrease in odor threshold and discrimination was observed during RT, which returned to baseline levels after RT.

The study concluded that RT for HNC induces acute rhinitis that may persist after completing treatment and can affect a patient’s quality of life. Nasal cytology can help to choose the best treatment on an individual basis.