Sexual Quality of Life Decreased During, After Chemotherapy for Digestive Cancers

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Patients with digestive cancers are likely to experience sexual impairment.
Patients with digestive cancers are likely to experience sexual impairment.

Sexual quality of life is reduced among patients who receive chemotherapy for the treatment of digestive cancers, resulting in decreased frequency or complete cessation of sexual activity, according to a study published in Supportive Care in Cancer.

Recent studies have shown that sexual impairment, previously thought to be associated primarily with breast and pelvic cancers, is also highly prevalent among patients with digestive cancers; however, data for sexual dysfunction is lacking for all other types but colorectal cancer.

For this 4-month cross-sectional study, researchers enrolled 47 men and 31 women with digestive cancers treated with chemotherapy. Patients were instructed to complete the self-administered Sexual Quality of Life Questionnaire for Male (SQoL-M) or Female (SQoL-F), which assessed sexual activity, dysfunction, sexual quality of life, and patients' sexual needs for oncosexology care. The cohort consisted of 36 colorectal, 23 pancreatic, 8 liver and bile duct, 4 esophageal, 4 stomach, and 3 peritoneal cancers.

Results showed that sexual quality of life was significantly worse among patients with pancreatic and colorectal tumors compared with patients with other digestive tumors, patients who were less educated, and women.

Forty percent of patients reported a reduction in the frequency of sexual intercourse during chemotherapy compared with prediagnosis, and one-third of patients completely stopped sexual activity.

Of the study patients, 44% reported a desire for sexuality care; of these, 83% wanted a consultation with a medical sexologist; 63%, a consultation with a psycho-sexologist: 54% wanted couples therapy, and 31% considered support groups.

Findings from this study demonstrate the need for interventions during treatment to improve sexual rehabilitation among patients receiving chemotherapy. The authors concluded that “communication, preventive counseling, and early management, particularly in window of vulnerability like treatment phase, may help patients improve their sexual prognosis.”


Almont T, Couteau C, Etienne H, et al. Sexual health and needs for sexology care in digestive cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy: a 4-month cross-sectional study in a French university hospital [published online March 14, 2018]. Support Care Cancer. doi: 10.1007/s00520-018-4125-1

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