Adult Female Survivors at Risk for Sexual Issues

Katherine Lagomarsino

While much research links medical illness with lowered sexual functioning, few studies have focused specifically on the sexual health of women who were treated for cancer as children. A recent article in the Journal of Clinical Oncology reported findings from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, a large retrospective analysis initiated in 1994 to examine late effects in long-term survivors of childhood cancer. In the study, a group of 2,178 female adult survivors ages 18 to 51 reported significantly lower sexual functioning, interest, desire, arousal, satisfaction and activity compared with a control group made up of 408 of their female siblings. Risk factors for this psychosexual dysfunction, which arises from mental or emotional distress, include premature ovarian failure, treatment with radiation to the brain, and a diagnosis of cancer during adolescence. The researchers hope that understanding the incidence and risk factors of poor sexual health might result in screening tools or interventions that could prevent or mitigate these issues.
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