Study Prompts Discussion and Education Surrounding Sexual Health for Patients With Breast Cancer

It was found from a study by the University of Colorado Cancer Center that over 70% of patients with breast cancer reported changes that impact their sexual health during and following treatment. It was stated by the study authors that the majority of oncology teams do not discuss a lot of the probable sexual health side effects of breast cancer therapy. Patients in the study focus groups stated that they had not been prepared for the sexual health side effects that they were experiencing during their treatment. All of these patients expressed the need to have these effects addressed early-on in diagnosis as well as to have available counseling from their medical teams.

The study showed that issues regarding fertility and menopause are usually discussed by healthcare providers, but other common concerns are not commonly discussed including vaginal dryness, sexual desire, painful intercourse, and body image issues. Lack of training in diagnosis, limited time availability, and discomfort of the topic may be possible reasons for this. One of the study authors, Sarah Tevis, MD, stated that a patient did not come forward to her doctor with one of the side effects she was experiencing because she assumed that nothing could be done. Dr. Tevis advocated that providers need to have conversations with patients about these issues from the beginning so that they are more comfortable in talking with their treatment team and are aware of mitigation strategies.

In the study, each one of the 87 participants had their own preference on how they wanted to be given information about these issues. It was found that younger patients preferred to have in-person conversations with their team. Older patients preferred to review written materials. Cultural backgrounds and beliefs also played a part in how patients wanted to be delivered this information, so providers must be mindful to each individual patient when supplying such knowledge.

Because of this study, the university has partnered with the nonprofit organization Catch It In Time to produce a video series aiming to help educate medical professionals and patients on sexual health issues.


Study Could Lead to Better Education and Treatment of Sexual Health for Patients With Breast Cancer. The ASCO Post. Published August 3, 2022. Accessed August 30, 2022.