Sexual problems can plague young women who have survived cancer

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Cara Murez

MONDAY, Oct. 3, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Young women who have survived cancer are at risk of having sexual problems such as loss of libido and malaise, a new study has found.

The quality of survivors’ sex lives is also affected by the type of cancer they suffered and the intensity of treatment, researchers found.

“This is one of the largest population-based studies of sexual function ever conducted in young women after cancer,” said lead author Lena Wettergren, professor of nursing at Uppsala University in Sweden.

The study, published Sept. 30 in the journal Acta Oncologica, involved Swedish researchers who interviewed 694 women aged 18 to 39 about a year and a half after cancer diagnosis. The women were diagnosed between January 2016 and August 2017 and identified through national health registries.

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About half had breast cancer and the others had survived gynecologic cancer, brain tumors, or lymphoma. About 53% had treatment that was rated “very” or “very” for intensity or amount.

The women were asked about their sex life over the past month in eight subject areas, namely satisfaction, interest, discomfort, pain during sexual activity, and ability to orgasm. Patients were also asked about reasons for not having sex with a partner, as well as about body image and emotional distress.

The study authors compared their responses to those of a random sample of 493 women aged 19 to 40 who did not have cancer.

The research team found that women who survived cancer were just as sexually active as women without the disease, about 83% compared to 87%, but a significantly higher proportion had difficulties with intimacy.

About 45% reported a lack of interest in sex, with 34% of people reporting problems reaching orgasm and 22% reporting problems with sex life satisfaction.

In comparison, women with no cancer diagnosis reported these problems at 32%, 28%, and 19%, respectively.

“Our results show that two out of three women had sexual dysfunction and the problems were related to their cancer treatment and emotional distress,” Wettergren said in a press release from the journal.

“These results underscore the need to routinely assess sexual health in clinical care and follow-up,” she added. “We recommend developing specific interventions aimed at women, in addition to offering counseling and other tools.”

About 63% of women with a history of cancer reported at least one sexual problem that could include symptoms such as vulvar discomfort. Others reported vaginal dryness.

Older women and women with breast cancer or gynecologic cancer were at higher risk for gender-related problems, the authors found. This was true for patients undergoing high-dose radiation and chemotherapy.

Feeling unattractive was another key factor related to lack of sexual activity with a partner. Emotional stress and a distorted perception of their body after cancer treatment were associated with greater sexual dysfunction, the study found.

According to the study, more than half a million young adult women are diagnosed with cancer each year.

The researchers, which included those from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, urged healthcare providers to offer sexual wellbeing support, such as B. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), vaginal moisturizers and psychological counseling.

The American Cancer Society has more on cancer in young adults.

SOURCE: Acta OncologicaPress release, September 30, 2022

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