In addition, chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), a common complication of transplantation experienced by 65 percent of the patients in this study, may cause shrinkage of the vaginal tissues and changes to the vaginal lining that can contribute to sexual dysfunction in women. For males, testosterone levels and the cavernosal arteries of the penis are affected, eroding libido and erectile function.
Lack of interest or libido explained sexual inactivity in part for nearly 20 percent of female survivors at both six months and five years, suggesting that this problem did not improve over time. In contrast, for males, lack of interest or libido as a reason for inactivity declined from 14 percent to 6 percent between six months and five years.
At the five-year mark, the rates of sexual activity and sexual function for both male and female patients were below those of the control group, suggesting that they did not fully recover from the effects of the cancer itself or cancer treatments. Further studies are needed to determine if hormone treatments for both sexes or other therapies will help these patients achieve the same sexual function and activity as their peers.
The researchers also recommend that patients undergoing stem cell transplantation be made aware of potential changes in their sexuality and given resources to address these needs to help improve long-term quality of life. Men may benefit from reassurance that erectile function and sexual desire should improve by one to two years after treatment, but that methods such as testosterone replacement, erectile-function medications, and other adaptive strategies can be considered if problems continue. For women, methods that focus on communication with their partners about changes in sensation, strategies for enhancing libido, and use of vaginal lubricants, dilators, or vibrators to assist with adapting to ge
|Contact: Laura Stark|
American Society of Hematology