Talking about sex with health professionals: the experience of people with cancer and their partners

Gilbert, E. et al. European Journal of Cancer Care. Volume 25, Issue 2, pages 280–293, March 2016

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Changes to sexuality can be one of the most difficult aspects of life following cancer. This study examines the experience of discussing sexuality post cancer with health care professionals (HCPs), from the perspective of women and men with cancer (PWC), and their partners (PPWC), across a range of cancer types.

A total of 657 PWC (535 women, 122 men) and 148 PPWC (87 women, 61 men) completed a survey containing closed and open-ended items, analysed by analysis of variance and thematic analysis.

Discussions about sexuality with a HCP were more likely to be reported by men (68%) compared to women PWC (43%), and by women (47%) compared to men PPWC (28%), as well as by those with a sexual or reproductive cancer. Men PWC and women PPWC were most likely to want to discuss sexuality with a HCP, with men PWC and PPWC reporting highest levels of satisfaction with such discussions. Open-ended responses revealed dissatisfaction with the unwillingness of HCPs to discuss sexuality, unhappiness with the nature of such discussion, and positive accounts of discussions about sexuality with HCPs.

These findings lend support to the notion that people with cancer and their partners may have unmet sexual information and support needs.

Read the abstract here

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