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Oncology (Williston Park). 1999 Nov;13(11):1585-91; discussion 1591-2, 1595-6.

Counseling cancer patients about changes in sexual function.

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Department of Behavioral Science, University of Texas, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, USA.


Cancer treatments often cause sexual dysfunctions that remain severe long after therapy is over. Nevertheless, sexual counseling is not routinely provided in most oncology treatment settings. Most patients and their partners can benefit from brief counseling that includes education on the impact of cancer treatment on sexual functioning; suggestions on resuming sex comfortably and improving sexual communication; advice on how to mitigate the effects of physical handicaps, such as having an ostomy, on sexuality; and self-help strategies to overcome specific sexual problems, such as pain with intercourse or loss of sexual desire. Brief counseling can be provided by one of the allied health professionals on the oncology treatment team. A minority of patients will need specialized, intensive medical or psychological treatment for a sexual dysfunction. In a large cancer center, such treatment could be provided as part of a reproductive health clinic serving the special needs of cancer patients. In smaller settings, the oncologist should build a referral network of specialists. Not all managed care organizations reimburse for these services, however.

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