Patients With Multiple Myeloma Face Some Unique Sexual Challenges

M. Alexander Otto, MMS, PA

March 10, 2022

The study covered in this summary was published on as a preprint and has not yet been peer reviewed.

Key Takeaway

  • Patients with multiple myeloma face several unique sexual challenges.

  • These challenges are not frequently discussed and likely go undertreated.

Why This Matters

  • Cancer can have lasting effects on a person's sexual activity and sexual health, but most studies have focused on challenges experienced by patients with breast and reproductive cancers.

  • No prior studies have specifically examined sexual challenges in patients with multiple myeloma.

  • Clinicians should routinely address patients' sexual concerns.

Study Design

  • A total of 65 patients (40 men, 25 women) with multiple myeloma filled out an online survey about their sexual health.

  • Patients were, on average, 59 years old.

Key Results

  • The most common treatments patients received were chemotherapy (95.4%), steroids (89.1%), and stem cell transplants (69.2%).

  • Approximately one third of women and two thirds of men reported discussing sexual changes or challenges with their healthcare professional, and about one third reported receiving advice.

  • Common sexual issues among those with multiple myeloma and other cancers included fatigue, body image disturbances, mobility problems, low sexual desire, erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, and dyspareunia.

  • Sexual issues more unique to multiple myeloma included bone pain, vaginal bleeding/bruising, and concerns about infections.

  • Approximately one third of participants reported adapting to the situation with erectile dysfunction medications, nonmedical sexual aids, less strenuous positions, nonpenetrative sex, and/or switching to solitary activities. 

  • Others avoided sexual activity, suppressed sexual thoughts, and felt that sexual issues distanced them from their partners.

  • Participants felt uncomfortable discussing their sexual health with clinicians, felt their concerns were not taken seriously, and believed the topic was outside their healthcare professional's area of expertise and not a priority.


  • Participants were self-selected.

  • Recruitment excluded those who didn't have online access. 

  • Data quality depended on honesty.

  • About 90% of participants were White, heterosexual, and in a committed relationship.


  • The work was funded by the Alberta Cancer Foundation and others.

  • The investigators reported no disclosures.

This is a summary of a preprint research study, "Patient reported disease-specific concerns relating to sexuality in multiple myeloma," led by Megan Henkelman of the University of Calgary. The study has not been peer reviewed. The full text can be found at

M. Alexander Otto is a physician assistant with a master’s degree in medical science and a journalism degree from Newhouse. He is an award-winning medical journalist who has worked for several major news outlets before joining Medscape and also an MIT Knight Science Journalism fellow. Email:

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