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    Cervical Cancer Survivors Have High Scores for Sexual Distress


    A Third of Women Reported Distress

    Thirty-eight percent (n=95) of the sexually active women surveyed reported sexual distress (measured as a score of > 15 on the FSDS). Higher levels of sexual distress were linked to increased levels of vaginal sexual symptoms, worry about dyspareunia, relationship dissatisfaction, and concerns about body image.

    Reported severity of vaginal sexual symptoms varied significantly by treatment type, with subjects who underwent EBRT/BT experiencing the highest level of symptoms. Women who had RHL alone had comparable vaginal sexual symptoms to women who underwent RHL/EBRT or RHL/EBRT/BT.

    On univariate analysis, sexual distress was significantly linked to vaginal sexual symptoms, worry about sexual pain, anxiety, depression, concerns about body image, and relationship dissatisfaction. Age, duration of relationships, and time since surgery were not associated with sexual distress and there were no differences between RHL alone, RHL/EBRT, RHL/EBRT/BT, and EBRT/BT in regard to these parameters. On multivariate analysis, only worry about dyspareunia, relationship dissatisfaction, vaginal sexual symptoms, and body image issues remained significantly associated with sexual distress. The authors noted that in the multivariate analysis, anxiety and depression were no longer linked with sexual distress as they have been in population studies, perhaps because cervical cancer survivors were more concerned about physical sexual symptoms.

    The most telling finding, according to the authors, was the way in which worries about experiencing dyspareunia correlated with both vaginal sexual symptoms and sexual distress. They suggested this was due to a phenomenon whereby women who are worried about experiencing pain may become less aroused and lubricated, which may cause pain during intercourse, thus raising distress.

    Clinicians caring for cervical cancer survivors “should be well mindful of sexual distress,” suggested the authors, allocating adequate time and privacy to explore these issues with patients and counsel them about common sexual issues after cervical cancer surgery. Healthcare providers might also consider referring patients who are distressed for psychological therapy. 

    Nancy Monson
    Nancy Monson is a freelance writer and certified health coach whose work has appeared in numerous major clinical and consumer print and ...


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