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Sexual Problems May Arise After Breast Cancer
Date:9/23/2010

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Sept. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Sexual problems are common among breast cancer survivors, according to new research.

In a study of about 1,000 women treated for breast cancer, nearly three-quarters of those younger than 70 who had a partner reported sexual difficulties, such as loss of desire or reduced sexual activity, two years after diagnosis.

"We see a large number of women who tell us this is an issue," said study co-author Mary Panjari, a researcher at Monash University Medical School in Prahran, Australia. "The finding that 70 percent had sexual problems after diagnosis and initial treatment ... puts numbers to the anecdotal findings," she said. It also echoes previous research.

The study, published online Sept. 23 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, has broad implications given the increasing numbers of breast cancer survivors, experts say.

Panjari and her colleagues polled 1,684 women in Australia within 12 months of their diagnosis of invasive breast cancer. They asked the women to complete questionnaires annually for five years on their breast cancer treatment, partner status, body image, menopausal symptoms and sexual functioning.

The researchers excluded from the analysis women with active disease, those widowed or without a partner and those 70 and older, reasoning they would have less interest in sex or not be distressed by the lack of it.

That left them with 1,011 women, but data was missing on 17, bringing the number down to 994. Of these, 287 had no sexual problems, but 707 did.

More than 80 percent of the women surveyed reported their sex life had been satisfactory before breast cancer.

Eighty percent who reported sexual problems post-diagnosis also had menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats, which have been linked in other research to decreased sexual function.

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