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Cancer Nurs. 2008 Mar-Apr;31(2):E9-17. doi: 10.1097/01.NCC.0000305695.12873.d5.

Intimacy and sexuality after cancer: a critical review of the literature.

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1
Cancer Information & Support Service, The Cancer Council Victoria, Carlton, Victoria, Australia. Amanda.hordern@cancervic.org.au

Abstract

Experiencing a diagnosis of cancer may dramatically alter the way a person feels about themselves, their body, and their significant relationships with others at sexual and intimate levels. The purpose of this article is to provide a critical analysis of the way patient sexuality and intimacy has been constructed throughout cancer and palliative care literature. A critique of 3 well-cited communication frameworks for health professionals: the PLISSIT, ALARM, and BETTER models, will be offered. In summary, a dominant emphasis throughout the literature explores the narrow relationship between cancer treatments and the impact of those treatments on patient sexual function or dysfunction, so that patient sexuality and intimacy are inextricably limited to fertility, contraception, menopausal, erectile functional, or capacity for intercourse. Few studies explore sexual or intimate issues that have arisen in the face of life-threatening illness, particularly when patients are older than 65 years. Despite being well cited during the past 30 years, the PLISSIT and ALARM counseling models are outdated in terms of more reflective, patient-centered, and negotiated forms of communication promoted throughout clinical practice guidelines and patient feedback in qualitative research. The BETTER communication model provides a significant step in assessing and documenting the patient's experience of sexuality after cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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