A recent study suggests that, for women who have had breast cancer, psychological interventions are associated with benefits related to sexual health. The study findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing.

The goal of the study (PROSPERO Identifier: CRD42021253493) was to evaluate the effects of psychological interventions on the sexual health of women with breast cancer. The study was a systematic review and meta-analysis of multiple databases that include entries for research articles, dissertations/theses, and/or clinical trials. Search terms included items related to breast neoplasms or tumors, other terms of interest involved those related to psychological interventions and to sexuality, and eligible studies involved participants having received treatment.

Primary study outcomes related to sexual function and sexual satisfaction. Secondary outcomes involved sexual distress, sexual quality of life, and sexual relationships. Pooled effect sizes for relationships between these outcomes and the use of psychological interventions were reported as standardized mean differences (SMDs) or mean differences (MDs).


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A total of 10,003 articles were identified, of which 15 met full criteria for inclusion in this analysis, with 10 being randomized controlled trials. These studies involved a total of 1307 patients. Across the included studies, 10 evaluated sexual function, 5 evaluated sexual satisfaction, 3 examined sexual relationships, 2 evaluated sexual distress, and 2 included sexual quality of life.

Psychological interventions were associated with statistically meaningful improvements in multiple areas of sexual health. In terms of sexual function this was reflected in an SMD of 0.82 (95% CI, 0.43-1.20; P <.0001), and for sexual satisfaction, the SMD was 0.95 (95% CI, 0.19-1.72; P =.01). For sexual relationships the SMD was 0.37 (95% CI, 0.15-0.60; P =.001), for sexual distress the MD was -5.05 (95% CI, -7.88 to -2.22; P =.0005). Sexual quality of life also reportedly improved with psychological interventions.

In subgroup analyses for which it was possible to compare types of psychological interventions, benefits for sexual function were seen with psychosexual counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and psychoeducational therapy. Psychoeducational therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy appeared to provide benefits for sexual satisfaction.

“Research has demonstrated that psychological interventions have made statistically significant improvements in sexual function, sexual satisfaction, sexual relationships, and sexual distress of women with breast cancer,” the study investigators concluded. They also urged health care providers to consider the sexual health of patients with breast cancer. The investigators considered cognitive behavioral therapy and psychoeducational therapy to be approaches with significant potential to improve sexual function and sexual satisfaction.

Reference

Xu J, Xue B, Li L, Quiao J, Redding SR, Ouyang YQ. Psychological interventions for sexual function and satisfaction of women with breast cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Nurs. Published online January 5, 2022. doi:10.1111/jocn.16194