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Few women seek help for sexual issues after cancer treatment, but many want it
Date:2/14/2011

Many women who survive breast and gynecologic cancers want medical help for their sexual issues, but most do not get it. A survey of hundreds of cancer survivors, published online in the journal Cancer, confirms that more than forty percent want medical attention for their sexual health needs.

"Some women have the courage to raise sexual concerns with their doctor, although repeated studies show they prefer the doctor to initiate the discussion," said Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago Medical Center and senior author of the study. "Physicians will often empathize with a patient's concerns, but struggle with a lack of knowledge about how to help."

Sexual problems in women after treatment for gynecological and breast cancers are well-documentedpain, dryness, loss of desire, difficulty with arousal and orgasm, and changes in body appearance due to treatments. Cancer survivors often struggle with body-image concerns, and don't feel attractive or feminine after treatment.

Doctors rarely talk with women about the impact of cancer on their sexuality. "There are few centers in the United States with the expertise to treat sexual problems in women and girls with cancer," Lindau said. Many women also don't discuss the issues with their spouse or partner.

The researchers surveyed 261 gynecologic and breast cancer patients and collected their medical records data. The mean age of the participants was 55, with a range of 21 to 88 years. Only seven percent of the patients surveyed had asked for advice or medical help for sexuality problems, but 42 percent were interested in receiving such care.

"Anything that affects the female sexual organs will have repercussions on body image and on a woman's sex life," said Emily Hill, MD, a fourth year resident in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago Medical Center, and lead author of the study.
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Contact: Dianna Douglas
dianna.douglas@uchospitals.edu
773-702-6241
University of Chicago Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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