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Improving Sexual Health Care in Oncology: Care Considerations for Female and Transgender Cancer Patients
Despite increasing calls to integrate sexual health into routine cancer care, the majority of women diagnosed with cancer do not receive information about how their cancer treatments will affect their sexual health. Around half of women treated for cancer report cancer-related sexual concerns including physical (e.g., vaginal dryness, discomfort during intercourse), psychological/emotional (e.g., decreased sexual interest, body image distress, loss of femininity) and interpersonal in nature (e.g., changes in sexual scripts, loss of sex and intimacy). Unlike other post-treatment health concerns that improve over time (e.g., pain), without intervention sexual concerns tend to persist for women with cancer, leading to long-term sexual distress and potential negative consequences for women’s individual and relationship well-being. Further, if unaddressed, sexual problems can also compromise cancer treatment or prevention efforts. Problematic side effects of long-term cancer treatments, including difficulties with sexual arousal and desire, are among the key causes of early discontinuation or non-adherence to estrogen-reducing treatments for women with breast or ovarian cancer. Unaddressed treatment-related sexual dysfunction – as well as concern about potential sexual problems – potentially undermines care and directly compromises patient health-related outcomes in all women and transgender men and women who undergo cancer-related treatment. Results of a recent systematic review published in Journal of Cancer Survivorship demonstrate that across different studies and a range of cancer sites, fewer than one third of women with cancer reported receiving information about potential sexual side effects of treatments, compared to twice as many men with cancer who had reported receiving such information. This underscores a troubling gender disparity in the context of sexual health treatment that must be acknowledged.

Jul 19, 2022 12:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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