Clinical Practice Strategies to Address Sexual Health in Female Cancer Survivors

Noël Arring, Debra L. Barton, Jennifer B. Reese

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

PURPOSEThe objectives of this narrative review are to describe (1) the evidence for interventions addressing four key issues affecting female sexual health in cancer populations (ie, low sexual desire, vulvovaginal symptoms, negative body image, and sexual partner relationships) that are ready or nearly ready for integration into practice and (2) the current state of patient-provider sexual health communication related to female sexual health as these findings could have implications for integrating sexual health into practice.METHODSA narrative review of recent intervention evidence for female cancer survivors' sexual health was conducted.RESULTSStrong evidence was found for behavioral interventions, such as psychosexual counseling and psychoeducation to treat concerns related to sexual health, including desire, body image, and sexual partner relationships. For partnered female survivors, couple-based psychosexual interventions have been found to be effective. There are no proven pharmacologic treatments for sexual-related concerns other than for vulvovaginal atrophy in female cancer survivors. Vaginal nonhormonal and low-dose hormonal agents are effective remedies for vulvovaginal symptoms. Laser treatment has not yet been fully evaluated. Sexual partners are a critical context for sexual health. Despite much need, discussions around this topic continue to be relatively infrequent. Recent technology-based interventions show promise in improving discussions around sexual health.CONCLUSIONEffective interventions exist for many sexual health challenges for female survivors although more high-quality intervention research, particularly multimodal interventions, is needed. Many of the effective interventions are nonpharmacologic, and thus, evaluation of the use of digital delivery to improve access to these interventions is needed. Cancer care delivery research is urgently needed to translate existing effective interventions into practice, including strategies to improve patient-provider communication around this topic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4927-4936
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Volume41
Issue number31
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2023

Keywords

  • Cancer Survivors/psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms/complications
  • Psychotherapy/methods
  • Sexual Behavior/psychology
  • Sexual Health
  • Survivors

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