A nurse-led sexual rehabilitation intervention is feasible and promising following radiotherapy in patients with gynecologic malignancies, according to a study published in the journal Supportive Care in Cancer.1
Vaginal dilators are recommended to prevent vaginal shortening and stenosis after combined pelvic radiation therapy and brachytherapy; however, women often fail to use them, thereby leading to sexual problems. Therefore, researchers developed a nurse-led sexual rehabilitation intervention to target sexual recovery and vaginal dilation.
To investigate the intervention’s feasibility, investigators specifically trained 4 oncology nurses to conduct this intervention. For the study, researchers enrolled 20 patients with an average age of 40 years treated with pelvic radiotherapy and brachytherapy for gynecologic cancer.
Participants were evaluated using questionnaires on frequency of dilator use each month, sexual functioning, and sexual, psychological, and relational distress. Patients were also assessed through semi-structured interviews and some patients participated in consultation recordings.
Results showed that 88% of the 16 evaluable patients dilated regularly, either by having sexual intercourse or by using dilators, at 6 months and 75% of the evaluable 12 patients dilated regularly at 12 months.
Researchers also found that sexual function improved between 1 and 6 months after radiation therapy, with continued improvement at 12 months.
The nurses reported having sufficient expertise and counseling skills to conduct the intervention and most participants perceived the intervention as helpful.
1. Bakker RM, Mens JW, de Groot HE, et al. A nurse-led sexual rehabilitation intervention after radiotherapy for gynecological cancer. Supp Care Cancer. 2016 Oct 27. doi: 10.1007/s00520-016-3453-2. [Epub ahead of print]