Female cancer survivors want medical help for sexual issues

There appears to be an unmet need for attention to sexual concerns among women with gynecologic and breast cancers: Survey and medical records data collected from 261 such patients indicated that 41.6% were interested in receiving medical help for sexual issues, but only 7% had actually sought such care.

More than one-third of the respondents (35%) were willing to be contacted if a formal program addressing sexual matters was offered. In addition, 30% said they would be likely to see a physician to discuss such problems.

The women completed the surveys during their visits to a gynecology oncology clinic. They ranged in age from 21 to 88 years (mean age, 55 years). “We did observe that younger age was associated with somewhat greater interest in care to address sexual issues and willingness to be contacted by a formal sexual health program,” noted Emily K. Hill, MD, a fourth-year resident in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago Medical Center, and colleagues, in their report for Cancer (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cncr.25832/pdf). “However, we also observed that more than 1 in 5 cancer survivors aged ≥65 years were interested in receiving sexual health care.”

Research shows that many gynecologic and breast cancer survivors are sexually active despite a high prevalence of sexual problems, and several major cancer centers are looking into creating clinical programs to help women manage these issues. Dr. Hill and co-investigators state that their findings establishes not only a need but a substantial, unmet need among these cancer survivors for clinical programs that provide medical care for sexual concerns.

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