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Maintaining sexual health throughout gynecologic cancer survivorship: A comprehensive review and clinical guide

Laura B. Huffman, Ellen M. Hartenbach, Jeanne Carter, Joanne K. Rash, David M. Kushner

Gynecologic Oncology, Volume 140, Issue 2, February 2016, Pages 359-368

Highlights
 

  • Sexual dysfunction is a prevalent, yet under-recognized and under-treated morbidity of gynecologic cancer treatment.
  • A comprehensive review of sexual problems experienced by gynecologic cancer survivors is presented.
  • A practical, evidence-based approach to sexual health concerns in patients during and after treatment is discussed.

 

Abstract


Objective

The diagnosis and treatment of gynecologic cancer can cause short- and long-term negative effects on sexual health and quality of life (QoL). The aim of this article is to present a comprehensive overview of the sexual health concerns of gynecologic cancer survivors and discuss evidence-based treatment options for commonly encountered sexual health issues.

Methods

A comprehensive literature search of English language studies on sexual health in gynecologic cancer survivors and the treatment of sexual dysfunction was conducted in MEDLINE databases. Relevant data are presented in this review. Additionally, personal and institutional practices are incorporated where relevant.

Results

Sexual dysfunction is prevalent among gynecologic cancer survivors as a result of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy—negatively impacting QoL. Many patients expect their healthcare providers to address sexual health concerns, but most have never discussed sex-related issues with their physician. Lubricants, moisturizers, and dilators are effective, simple, non-hormonal interventions that can alleviate the morbidity of vaginal atrophy, stenosis, and pain. Pelvic floor physical therapy can be an additional tool to address dyspareunia. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be beneficial to patients reporting problems with sexual interest, arousal, and orgasm.

Conclusion

Oncology providers can make a significant impact on the QoL of gynecologic cancer survivors by addressing sexual health concerns. Simple strategies can be implemented into clinical practice to discuss and treat many sexual issues. Referral to specialized sexual health providers may be needed to address more complex problems.


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