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William J. Gradishar, MD, FACP, FASCO


Are Breast Cancer Survivors Adequately Informed About Sexual Health Effects? Study Says Maybe Not

By: Sarah Lynch
Posted: Friday, August 26, 2022

A team of researchers surveyed breast cancer survivors to determine how many had experienced changes in sexual health during or after treatment and received adequate education about such effects. According to Sarah E. Tevis, MD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, and colleagues, few of these patients received sufficient information about the potential effects of breast cancer treatment on their sexual health.

“Patients we spoke with in focus groups all reported sexual side effects they were not prepared for during treatment,” commented Dr. Tevis in an institutional press release. “However, all expressed the desire to have those effects addressed early in the diagnosis and would like counseling to be available from the medical team.”

In total, 87 patients with breast cancer completed a questionnaire about their recent sexual health history, whether any changes had been noted, and how (if at all) such changes were discussed with them by their health-care providers. The researchers discovered that although providers typically discussed menopausal and fertility issues with patients, they often neglected to discuss other problems such as vaginal dryness, sexual desire, pain during intercourse, and body image issues. The study revealed that patients often felt uncomfortable about asking their physicians about such issues.

Additionally, all patients surveyed had their own preferred way to receive such information. Factors reported to influence the conveyance of such information included age, culture, and religious beliefs. More specifically, younger patients typically preferred for their team of providers to speak with them about possible sexual health changes during in-person meetings. In contrast, older patients seemed to prefer to have their providers deliver the information through written material. Based on their findings, these researchers aim to work on a series of sexual education videos for patients with breast cancer.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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