Researchers discovered that young female cancer survivors had a substantially increased risk of sexual difficulties such as libido loss and pain.
The study’s findings were published in the journal Acta Oncologica. The study, which is one of the largest of its kind to date, also reveals that the kind of cancer and the severity of therapy affect the quality of a patient’s sex life.
The study included roughly 700 women who were diagnosed with breast and other malignancies before the age of 40. They indicate that women are sexually active in the same percentage as those who do not have these disorders, but a considerably larger proportion have difficulty with intimacy.
The most common concern stated by cancer patients was a lack of interest in sex (45%), followed by difficulties obtaining climax (34%), and satisfaction with sex life (22%).
These worries were also expressed by women in the general population who had not been diagnosed with cancer, but to a lower amount (32%, 28%, and 19%, respectively).
The authors, a group of academics from Uppsala University and the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, are now advising doctors to give sexual well-being counselling when appropriate. They recommend hormone replacement treatment (HRT), vaginal moisturisers, and psychosexual counselling, among other things, for single women.
Every year, more than 500,000 young adult women worldwide are diagnosed with cancer. Hormone fluctuations and body image concerns are two biological and psychological variables that might limit their ability to participate in or enjoy intimacy.
However, the exact degree of the cancer-sexual dysfunction relationship is unclear. According to some research, over half of young women experience sexual difficulties in the first years after being diagnosed.
However, breast cancer research predominates, and few studies have compared patients to the general population.
The researchers wanted to know the degree and origin of the challenges that young female cancer patients confront.
The study included 694 women aged 18 to 39 who were diagnosed between January 2016 and August 2017 and were identified using official national health registries.
The majority had breast cancer, with the remainder having gynaecological cancer, brain tumours, or lymphoma. A total of 53% had received therapy that was rated’very’ or’most’ in terms of severity or extent.
All were polled about their sex life in the previous month one and a half years following diagnosis. The questions were centred on eight sexual activity-related subjects, including contentment with sex life, interest in sexual activity, discomfort and pain when engaging in sexual activity, and capacity to orgasm.
In addition, patients were asked to explain why they did not have sex with a partner and were questioned about their body image, such as if they found it difficult to look at themselves naked. They were also asked to assess their own mental suffering.
The findings were compared to a random sample of 493 women aged 19 to 40 who had not been diagnosed with cancer.
The majority of women with cancer and those without (83% vs 87%, respectively) had sex in the previous 30 days, either with a partner or by masturbation, according to the findings.
However, two out of every three (63%) cancer patients reported at least one sexual problem, such as vulvar pain. Overall, survey participants were more likely to report problems with any sort of sexual engagement.
Older women and those with breast or gynaecological cancer were more likely to have sex issues. This was also true for individuals receiving more aggressive treatment, such as high-dose radiation and chemotherapy.
Sexual dysfunction was connected with emotional discomfort and a skewed image of their bodies following cancer therapy.
The main characteristics associated with a lack of sexual engagement with a partner were vaginal dryness or soreness and feeling ugly. This occurred among cancer patients, and the authors emphasise that it might all be connected to cancer therapy.
The study’s limitations include the possibility that those who agreed to participate were more sexually active and had less sex issues, or vice versa.
As a result, it is possible that the results will be exaggerated or understated; nonetheless, the majority of participants (72%) who were requested to take the survey did so.