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J Clin Oncol. 2012 Oct 20;30(30):3712-9. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2012.41.7915. Epub 2012 Sep 24.

Sexuality in adult cancer survivors: challenges and intervention.

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Sexual Health Program, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Sexual dysfunction is one of the most common and distressing consequences of cancer treatment. Although some treatment-related sexual adverse effects are short-term, many survivors face long-term effects such as treatment-induced menopause, altered gonadal function, and significant surgical disfigurement. Profound sexual dysfunction has been shown to have a significant negative effect on quality of life. Although these problems have been well documented and there are a range of intervention strategies that can help patients cope with treatment-related sexual problems, many survivors do not feel prepared for potential sexual changes and often do not receive adequate support to manage sexual dysfunction. Numerous barriers contribute to this underprovided aspect of survivorship care, including lack of provider training and access to readily available resources. In addition, psychological, relational, and cultural factors significantly influence sexuality but are often not taken into consideration in research and clinical practice. By taking an integrative approach and providing survivors with appropriate screening, information, and support, sexual dysfunction and accompanying distress can be significantly alleviated. In this article, we aim to provide a concise review of the most common sexual problems experienced by survivors and highlight some of the most promising evidence-based practices for assessment and intervention. We also address limitations encountered in research and practice and explore future directions, including suggestions for adopting an integrative treatment model to address sexual dysfunction in a cancer survivorship treatment setting.

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