Sexual Health Issues for the Young Adult With Cancer


Adolescents and young adults (AYA) diagnosed with cancer have distinctive psychosocial and medical needs, in part due to their transition through significant life milestones at the time of diagnosis (Gupta et al, 2013 cited in Mitchell et al, 2018). One of the main needs is around sexuality, as forming a sexual identity is a key developmental task for a young adult (YA) (D’Agostino, Penney, Zebrack, 2011 cited in, Mitchell at al., 2018). As YA cancer survivors may experience challenges or dissatisfaction around sexual relations and intimacy, it is imperative to increase attention from healthcare professionals (HCP) for AYA’s sexual health (Bolte & Zebrack, 2008 cited in Mitchell et al., 2018).

On the other hand, the inability of HCP to access training and resources related to sexual health makes it extremely challenging for them to optimally address the sexual healthcare needs of AYA, creating the risk of compromising patients’ quality of life during cancer treatment and survivorship.

Thereby, a group of professionals in oncology who voiced similar concerns regarding AYA sexual health, needs, and gaps in care delivery at their healthcare institutions, established a multidisciplinary working group, connected with international colleagues, and decided to hold a one-day international Sexual Health Symposium at the Global AYA Cancer Congress (Edinburgh, December 2016). The goals of the symposium were to (1) provide a forum, where international AYA experts had the opportunity to share their knowledge regarding AYA sexual health and (2) develop a guideline for healthcare professionals to screen for and intervene in sexual health issues.

The two highlighted aspects that gathered consensus are that care for sexual health in AYAs should not be overlooked and that HCP is required within oncology programs to ensure that conversations regarding sexual health be incorporated into the mainstream dialogue of patients.