Search For a Provider Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube ES View the Patient Toolkit

Did You Know?

How Do Childhood Cancers Affect Adults’ Sexual Health?

How Do Childhood Cancers Affect Adults’ Sexual Health?

For the most part, adult survivors of childhood cancers are satisfied with their sex lives and romantic relationships, according to new research published in Cancer, the journal of the American Cancer Society.

However, those whose treatment targeted their nervous system (such as those with brain tumors) were less likely to have reached “psychosexual milestones” like having intercourse, being in a committed relationship, or having children. 

The researchers surveyed 144 people between the ages of 20 and 40 who were survivors of childhood cancer.  The participants answered questions about their psychosexual development, sexual satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction.  A comparison group of 144 people who had not had cancer also completed the surveys.

Ninety-four survivors had had neurotoxic (toxic to the nervous system) treatments – 36 at low doses and 58 at high doses.  These types of treatments can affect the developing brain, making it more difficult for patients to interact socially and form romantic relationships later on.

Overall, cancer survivors tended to have had fewer partners than the comparison group.  But other than that, the two groups had similar rates of sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction.

Those who had received neurotoxic treatments were less likely to have reached psychosexual milestones, but that did not mean they were not satisfied.  The researchers noted that sexual satisfaction was linked to relationship status.

“This highlights the subjective nature of psychosexual issues and the importance of addressing any concerns in survivorship care,” study co-author Dr. Vicky Lehmann of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio said in a press release.



Lehmann, Vicky, PhD, et al.

“Psychosexual development and satisfaction in long-term survivors of childhood cancer: Neurotoxic treatment intensity as a risk indicator”

(Abstract. First published: February 6, 2017)


Preidt, Robert

“Most Adult Survivors of Childhood Cancers Enjoy Good Sexual Health”

(February 6, 2017)


“Can Childhood Cancer Treatments Affect Survivors’ Sex Lives in Adulthood?”

(Press release. February 6, 2017)