After treatment for gynecologic cancer, women have sex less frequently, according scientists from the University of Colorado Cancer Center.
On average, the women in their study group had sex about six times a month before treatment. This frequency dropped to between two and five times each month after treatment.
However, the decrease in sex didn’t not seem to negatively affect their relationships.
Gynecologic cancers include cancers of the uterus, cervix, ovaries, vagina, vulva, and endometrium (the lining of the uterus). Depending on their location and severity, these cancers may be treated with chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. In some times, a combination of treatment approaches is used. An estimated 90,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with a form of gynecologic cancer each year.
Two hundred ninety women participated in the study. Forty-one percent had been treated for uterine/endometrial cancer. Ovarian cancer had affected 37% of the women and 22% had had cervical cancer or another type.
Ninety-two percent of the women had had surgery, 62% had had chemotherapy, and 30% had undergone radiation.
Each woman completed a 181-question survey about their sexual health and relationships before and after cancer treatment.
Sexual dysfunction was more common among younger and premenopausal women, as well as those who had had chemotherapy and those who were in committed relationships.
The women with sexual problems were more likely to attend relationship counseling.
In spite of lower sexual frequency and more sexual dysfunction, the women did not report higher rates of relationship problems.
"We think that if couples are given the option to go to counseling during cancer treatment it may help with their sexual health in the long run," said researcher Saketh Guntupalli, MD, in a University of Colorado Cancer Center blog post.
"If we can catch those patients that may have problems up front and offer interventions, especially younger couples, it can really enhance life after cancer," he added.
The study results were presented in May at the annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology.
Saketh Guntupalli, et al.
“Sexual and marital dysfunction in women with gynecologic cancer: A multi-institutional, cross-sectional trial”
(Abstract 9592, presented at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology, May 2015 in Chicago, IL)
University of Colorado Cancer Center
“Study shows sexual dysfunction after gynecologic cancer treatment”
(May 30, 2015)