Sexuality and Cancer
I have written a number of times about sexuality, intimacy and the impact of cancer on our most important relationships. In brief, having (breast) cancer is never a sexual aide, and most of us do adapt and adjust and continue to value this part of our lives. This is an interesting abstract re the ongoing importance of sexuality for people with advanced cancer. This is not a surprise. Just as we have learned that elderly couples continue to enjoy physical intimacy, we know that being close may be even more important for people who are scared, sad, and ill.
Here it is:
Sexual issues in early and late stage cancer: a review
Journal Supportive Care in Cancer
Publisher Springer Berlin / Heidelberg
ISSN 0941-4355 (Print) 1433-7339 (Online)
Category Review Article
Sebastiano Mercadante1 , Valentina Vitrano1 and
(1) Pain Relief and Palliative Care Unit, La Maddalena Cancer Center, Via San
Lorenzo 312, 90146 Palermo, Italy
Sexuality is an important aspect of life involving physical,
psychological, interpersonal, and behavioral aspects. The aim of this
review was to examine the literature regarding sexuality in advanced
cancer patients, after taking into consideration the principal changes
produced by the disease and its treatment.
This review considered references through a search of PubMed by
use of the search terms "advanced cancer," "palliative care," in
combination with "sexuality" and/or "intimacy."
Surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, radiotherapy, and drugs
commonly given for the symptomatic treatment have relevant
consequences on sexuality, also in the advanced stage of disease.
Sexual dysfunction is a multifaceted issue and different causes may
concomitantly have a role, including the psychological and clinical
status. The existing clinical studies have shown important cultural
barriers on sexuality. Sexuality is not considered a medical concern
compared with the priority of treating cancer or symptoms. Although
this issue is very private, unaddressed sexuality changes can be
among the most negative influences on the social well being of a
cancer patient. It is increasingly acknowledged that issues
surrounding sexuality are an important factor in quality of life for
patients with cancer and that sexuality is a legitimate area of
concern in oncology and palliative care. Few studies have assessed
sexuality in the advanced stage of disease. Nevertheless, advanced
cancer patients are willing to talk about their sex lives and the
impact of the disease on their sexual function.
To provide this component of care, professionals need to have good
communication skills, an open and non-judgmental approach, and
knowledge of the potential ramifications of disease and treatment of