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Sexual Dysfunction in Female Cancer Survivors

DeSimone, Michael BS*; Spriggs, Elizabeth BA; Gass, Jennifer S. MD*,‡; Carson, Sandra A. MD*,‡; Krychman, Michael L. MD§; Dizon, Don S. MD, FACP*,‡

American Journal of Clinical Oncology: February 2014 - Volume 37 - Issue 1 - p 101–106
doi: 10.1097/COC.0b013e318248d89d
Review Articles

Cancer survivors face a myriad of long-term effects of their disease, diagnosis, and treatment, and chief among many are problems associated with sexual dysfunction. Yet despite their frequency and the degree of distress they cause patients, sexual dysfunction is not effectively screened for or treated, and this is particularly true in female survivors. Inconsistently performed general sexual health screening at all facets of cancer care and survivorship ultimately translates into missed attempts to identify and treat dysfunction when it does arise. In this paper, we will review the current research and clinical practices addressing sexual dysfunction in female cancer survivors and propose questions in need of future research attention. This article will review the phases of sexual response and how each may be affected by the physical and emotional stress of cancer diagnosis and treatment. We will then discuss existing tools for assessment of sexual function and approaches to their treatment. Finally, we will conclude with advice to health care professionals based on current research and suggest questions for future study.

*Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University

Center for Sexuality, Intimacy, and Fertility, Women & Infants’ Hospital, Providence, RI

§Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine, Newport Beach, CA

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Don S. Dizon, MD, FACP, Program in Women’s Oncology, Women & Infants’ Hospital, 101 Dudley Street, Providence, RI 02905. E-mail:

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc