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Psycho-oncology: the sexuality of women and cancer 

Psycho-oncology: the sexuality of women and cancer
Psycho-oncology: the sexuality of women and cancer

Reiko Ohkawa

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date: 17 April 2021

Female patients undergoing treatment for cancer often experience significant changes in their sexuality due to the disease and its treatment. Sexuality relates to the sexual habits and desires of each individual. It varies according to age-related sexual needs. Many women with cancer consider their sexuality an important aspect of their lives. Yet, they may refrain from sex or enjoy it less following treatment, whether it be surgical or by irradiation, and accompanied by adjunctive chemotherapy or hormonal therapy. Chapter 11 discusses these issues, with a vignette illustrating the impact of an unexpected diagnosis of cancer. Multiple studies have examined sexual dysfunction following treatment of gynaecological cancers, including breast cancer, and several proposed solutions are available. However, the information has not been implemented by many health providers, and patients often experience anxiety and embarrassment when planning to discuss sexuality. The patients may be concerned that their sexual habits might interfere with the treatment outcome, and cause a recurrence of cancer. Reproductive dysfunction is only one of the manifold problems in the female undergoing cancer therapy. It can lead to infertility but certain treatment methods could help retain fertility. Ethical concerns pertaining to the preservation, and use of germ cells, need to be addressed. Ideally, a team of healthcare providers should handle sexual rehabilitation of the cancer survivor based on the patient's history. Unfamiliarity with such matters makes many medical professionals hesitant in discussing their patients' sexuality. The PLISSIT model can help initiate the assessment of sexual dysfunction in these patients.

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