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Maturitas. 2010 May;66(1):23-6. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2010.01.015. Epub 2010 Mar 19.

Sexuality and intimacy after gynecological cancer.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Matters of sexuality and intimacy greatly impact quality of life of patients with gynecologic cancers. Vast amount of evidence exists showing that cancer dramatically impacts woman's sexuality, sexual functioning, intimate relationships and sense of self. Sexual functioning can be affected by illness, pain, anxiety, anger, stressful circumstances and medications. There is a growing acknowledgement that these needs are not being appropriately addressed by providers. With improvements in early detection, surgery and adjuvant therapy for gynecologic cancer, long term survival and cure are becoming possible. Quality of life is thus becoming a major issue for patients. Patients suffer from hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, loss of libido and intimacy, all resulting in significant morbidity and loss of quality of life. Using hormone replacement therapy in gynecologic cancer survivors is a topic a great debate. While limited studies are available to date, retrospective cohort reviews show no reported differences in overall or disease-free survival in patients using hormone replacements vs. controls in patients with ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, cervical, vaginal or vulva cancer. Since safety of using HRT remains controversial and prospective studies are lacking, providers need to be able to provide alternatives to HRT. Centrally acting agents such as antiseizure agent gabapentin and selective serotonine re-uptake inhibitors, such as venlafaxine and fluoxitine have been demonstrated to show effectiveness in treating vasomotor symptoms and are easily tolerated. To address cardiovascular and osteoporosis risks of post-menopausal status, exercise, healthy diet, bisphosphonates, raloxifen and statins have been found to be effective. Psychotherapy plays an essential part in management of these issues. Review of the literature reveals recent trends among health psychologists to utilize psychoeducational interventions that include combined elements of cognitive and behavioral therapy with education and mindfulness training. Intervention studies have found positive effects from this approach, particularly within the areas of arousal, orgasm, satisfaction, overall well-being, and decreased depression. Many of patients' issues are easy to address with either hormonal, non-hormonal or psychotherapy modifications. The essential part of success is the providers appreciation of this serous problem and willingness and comfort in addressing it.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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