The impact of cancer on sexual function: a controlled study

Ananth, Hema; Jones, Louise; King, Michael; Tookman, Adrian
March 2003
Palliative Medicine;Mar2003, Vol. 17 Issue 2, p202
Academic Journal
Background: Little is known about sexual problems in patients with cancer. Aims: To estimate 1) the prevalence and characteristics of sexual dysfunction in patients undergoing treatment for cancer, 2) how sexual dysfunction varies with stage of illness. Method: Cross-sectional study of outpatients with cancer attending palliative care and oncology services and matched patients without cancer attending general practice. Patients completed a questionnaire on sexual function designed in a feasibility study, the Derogatis subscale on sexual satisfaction, the GHQ12 and the EuroQol. Results: Patients with all types of cancer are willing to talk about their sex lives and the impact of the disease on their sexual function. This impact was significant when compared to the comparison group of general practice attendees of the same age. Palliative care patients were affected more than other cancer patients. Conclusion: This work may lead to greater awareness among healthcare professionals that patients with all types of cancer may experience sexual difficulties. Addressing potential sexual problems during the course of disease may give patients confidence to discuss such issues as they occur, thus avoiding embarrassment or aggravation of the problems later in their illness.


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