sexual function in cancer survivors and fertility

A study conducted in Sweden with 540 adolescent and young adult cancer survivors (15–29 years) aimed to investigate patient-reported physical and psychosexual complications after they have undergone treatment for cancer. A study-specific questionnaire was constructed and validated in several steps including comments from experts, researchers, clinicians, and adolescents and young cancer patients.

The questionnaire included 98 questions on demographics, quality of life, well-being, psychosocial health, social life, education, work, leisure, fertility, body image, and sexuality. It could be shown that adolescent and young adult cancer survivors perceived themselves as being less satisfied with their sexual function than matched population-based controls. In addition, female cancer survivors reported a lower frequency of orgasms than the controls, that may have been related to vaginal pain and lack of vaginal lubrication. Depression was linked to these feelings of dissatisfaction with sex. Male cancer survivors reported a lower sexual desire than their peers, mainly due to erectile dysfunction.

The results highlight the need of a multidisciplinary team of professionals to support this target-population to enhance the quality of sex life during and after cancer by addressing psychological aspects or by offering solutions to specific sex problems from a physical cause (Olsson et al. Journal of Cancer Survivorship 2018).