Current Considerations in Interventions to Address Sexual Function and Improve Care for Women with Cancer

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Abstract

Purpose of Review: Sexual problems after cancer are common and multifaceted, particularly among women. The objective of this paper is to review recent and innovative behavioral (non-pharmacologic) interventions that aim to improve the sexual health of women affected by cancer. The review focuses on studies published within the past 5 years, focusing on interventions in three key areas for women with cancer: interventions to facilitate effective patient–provider communication about sexual health concerns, biopsychosocial interventions targeting women specifically, and interventions using a couple-based approach. Recent Findings: Overall, results suggest advancements in all key areas. First, efforts to facilitate effective clinical communication about sexual health concerns in cancer are growing. Findings from pilot studies were particularly encouraging for brief communication interventions in increasing clinicians’ awareness and comfort in discussing sexual health with their patients. Second, studies have also begun demonstrating feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy for biopsychosocial interventions for women to improve sexual health, based on a variety of therapeutic approaches; technology-based approaches are gaining particular traction. Finally, consistent with prior reviews, recent research continues to support the use of couple-based interventions, suggesting that including partners in education and counseling about cancer-related sexual changes and solutions can have positive effects on patients, partners, and relationship functioning. Additionally, although efforts are growing to improve clinical communication and sexual health outcomes in special populations (e.g., adolescent and young adult survivors, sexual and gender minorities), greater efforts are needed. Summary: Findings from the review suggest benefit of recent interventions aimed to address sexual concerns and improve outcomes for women affected by cancer. Limitations of studies include small sample sizes and a lack of tailoring to address individual concerns and diverse populations. Future directions should consider existing barriers to participation while leveraging the opportunities for technology and evidence-based digital health strategies to optimize or individualize content and facilitate delivery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-230
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Sexual Health Reports
Volume14
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Keywords

  • Cancer
  • Patient–provider communication
  • Psycho-oncology
  • Sexual function
  • Sexual health
  • Women’s health

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