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Rectal Cancer Survivors Can Face Sexual Challenges

Aug 15, 2017

In 2016, the Journal of Sexual Medicine published a study describing the sexual challenges and health-related quality of life among long-term rectal cancer survivors. Researchers surveyed 575 people in the United States. Almost a third (62 women and 119 men) had permanent ostomy procedures; the rest (173 women and 221 men) had undergone anastomosis. All had had surgery at least five years before the survey. The average time since surgery was 12 to 14 years.

Overall, survivors with a permanent ostomy were more likely to have sexual problems than those who underwent anastomosis. For example, about 28% of women in the ostomy group reported vaginal stricture (narrowing) at the time of the survey. For women in the anastomosis group, the rate was 17%. Also at the survey time, 22% of the women who had had an ostomy procedure had vaginal pain; only 12% of the anastomosis women did.

Erection problems were common for men in both groups. Seventy percent of the men in the ostomy group had problems getting an erection after surgery, compared to 59% of the men in the anastomosis group. However, the difference decreased as the years passed. By the time of the survey, the rates were 73% and 69%, respectively.

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