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Phobic Anxiety Linked to Sexual Problems in Breast Cancer Survivors

The women completed a questionnaire called the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI), which assesses sexual desire, arousal, vaginal lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction and pain during the previous four weeks.

Anxiety levels were also evaluated with an assessment tool. Women responded to questions about the types of anxiety they experienced, including phobic anxiety. (Other types included anxiety about evaluation, interpersonal anxiety, and anxiety in everyday situations.)

Roughly three-quarters of the survivors had had chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Sixty percent had undergone hormonal therapy, and about half had had breast-conserving surgery.

Overall, 89% of the breast cancer survivors were considered to have sexual dysfunction, compared to 46% of the women without a history of breast cancer.

The researchers found that phobic anxiety in particular was associated with poorer sexual function in survivors based on FSFI scores.

“Most of the survivors had undergone chemotherapy, which is more likely than many other medical treatments to increase sexual dysfunction, so it is possible that the consequences of breast cancer that affect survivors’ perceptions of their femininity may also affect their sexual functioning by inducing a phobic response to intimacy and sexual relations,” the authors wrote.

Cancer survivors who feel anxious about sex are encouraged to talk to their healthcare provider.

Learn more with these links:

Breast Cancer Survivors Face Sexual Concerns

Female Cancer Survivors and Sex Health Issues

Cancer and Sexuality: Questions For Your Provider

Breast Cancer Treatment Could Preserve Ovarian Function

Younger Breast Cancer Survivors Have Sexual Challenges, Too

Special Therapy Addresses Body Image in Breast Cancer Survivors

Sexuality of Older Cancer Survivors

Sex and Anxiety


Anxiety and Depression Association of America

“Specific Phobias”


“Phobic anxiety is linked to sexuality issues in women who are breast cancer survivors”

(November 5, 2018)


Abril‐Requena, Ana, et al.

“Sexual dysfunction and phobic anxiety in breast cancer survivors”

(Full-text. First published: September 17, 2018)

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