New Survey Breaks the Silence on Women, Lung Cancer and Sexual Health


A groundbreaking new survey, conducted by a multi-disciplinary team in GO2 for Lung Cancer’s Lung Cancer Registry, found that sexual dysfunction is prevalent in women with lung cancer. The results were shared by study lead Dr. Narjust Florez (Duma) with top clinicians, researchers and scientists from across the world on August 9th at The 2022 IASLC World Conference on Lung Cancer in Vienna.

SHAWL survey results show sexual dysfunction is prevalent.

The Sexual Health Assessment in Women with Lung Cancer (SHAWL) survey asked women diagnosed with lung cancer about their sexual activity. Among the key findings:

  • 77% percent reported little or no interest in sexual activity
  • 67% reported rarely or never wanting to have sexual activity

The most common reasons that impacted satisfaction with their sex lives were fatigue (40%), feeling sad or unhappy (28%), issues with a partner (22%) and shortness of breath (15%).

Among the participants who reported sexual activity in the past 30 days, 59% reported significant issues with vaginal dryness and 26% reported vaginal pain or discomfort during sexual activity. When comparing to pre-diagnosis sexual health, there were also significant differences:

  • Decreased sexual desire/interest (15% before vs. 31% post-diagnosis)
  • Vaginal pain/discomfort (13% before vs. 43% post-diagnosis)

“Most of the existing data regarding sexual dysfunction in patients with lung cancer precedes the approval of targeted therapy and immune checkpoint inhibitors,” said Dr. Narjust Florez (Duma), of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and the study’s principal investigator. “This is the largest study to date evaluating sexual dysfunction in women with lung cancer.”

Of those who completed the survey, 64% had stage 4 lung cancer. A total of 45% were receiving targeted therapy, with the vast majority (87%) taking the medication for more than six months. In addition, 33% of participants were taking anti-depressants and 14% were taking beta-blockers.

Breaking the silence on sexual dysfunction and lung cancer.

Sexual health in women with lung cancer has been underreported and, thus, understudied. The SHAWL study explored the magnitude of the problem to give researchers and clinicians new insights into the problem and improve the quality of life for female lung cancer survivors.

The results make clear that sexual dysfunction is common in women undergoing treatment for lung cancer. So what can be done to help women now?

Dr. Florez (Duma) is clear: Doctors and patients should discuss sexual health. Women living with lung cancer should not be afraid to bring up sexual health side effects and ask for appropriate referrals when needed.

“Sexual health should be integrated into thoracic oncology care,” she said, adding that “further research is needed to develop tailored interventions for patients with lung cancer.”

The SHAWL Study was conducted by GO2 for Lung Cancer’s Lung Cancer Registry in partnership with University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a multi-disciplinary team of investigators. Thank you to our partners and study participants for making this important research possible.

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