Sexual Function in Gynecologic Cancer Survivors

Alison Amsterdam; Michael Krychman

Disclosures

Expert Rev of Obstet Gynecol. 2008;3(3):331-337. 

In This Article

Psychological Concerns

Many women report perpetual sadness and depressive symptoms after they have been successfully treated for their cancer because of body image concerns, fear of recurrence and post-traumatic stress disorder.[21] Underlying psychiatric illnesses, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, combined with depressed moods, altered self-image and anxiety may also contribute to the development of female sexual dysfunction. In addition, prior negative sexual experiences may also be incorrectly ascribed to cancer treatment.

Relationship dynamics can change once a woman has a cancer diagnosis. For example, the partner, who may transition into the role of caregiver or primary wage earner, may have difficulty adjusting to altered familial roles resulting in marital and financial tension for the couple. Partner conflicts, relationship miscommunications and body image concerns can interrupt intimacy and exacerbate pre-existing sexual complaints. Many cancer patients report that sadness and distress emerge during sexual experiences, which contribute to sexual dysfunction.[9] For women with partners, lowered sexual desire or pain during sexual activity can impact these relationships.[9,22] Reservations concerning partner abandonment and sexual rejection influence intimate relationships. Cancer survivors who are not in a relationship may also face concerns regarding new dating and relationship scenarios and disclosure of sensitive medical information regarding longevity as a result of a serious medical condition and reproductive concerns. Other worries, which are independent of relationship status, include the threat of disease recurrence, early death, bodily disfigurement, weight changes, finances, employment and insurance.[23]

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