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Ovarian Cancer Survivors Report Lower Quality of Life

It’s possible that changes in sexual function negatively influenced the women’s quality of life, the authors said.

In the focus group, three women (ages 51, 59, and 65) elaborated on their experiences. The researchers identified six themes that ran throughout their conversation:

  • Relationship satisfaction. Women said they avoided intimate touching because they were afraid it would lead to sex. One noted that she would sexually stimulate her husband out of a sense of “duty,” but another explained that she and her husband were “working together with the sex part.”
  • Specific sexual problems. Pain, loss of desire, and changes to orgasm were common.
  • Body image. Hair loss, scarring, and surgical removal of reproductive organs made women feel less attractive or less feminine. “When I have my wig on,” one woman said, “I look at myself in the mirror and I don’t see the cancer, but the minute my wig is off, and I’m looking at myself in the mirror, that’s what I see. Cancer . . . I don’t feel good about myself, so how could somebody else possibly want to have anything to do with me?”
  • Communication with healthcare providers. Women were not always given details on the effects of cancer and treatment on sexuality.
  • Emotional responses. All of the women expressed grief, guilt, fear, and anxiety because they were “not feeling sexual.”
  • Coping strategies. Support services and counseling helped the women work through their emotions.

“These findings call out the need for healthcare professionals to prepare ovarian cancer survivors for possible changes in sexual function, and provide an opportunity for women to ask questions, and seek psychoeducational support throughout their ovarian cancer journey,” the authors wrote.

They recommended counseling and support for ovarian cancer survivors, focusing on mental health, education, and communication with partners and healthcare providers.

Resources

Sexual Medicine

Olivia J. Fischer, BKIN, et al.

“Sexual Function, Quality of Life, and Experiences of Women with Ovarian Cancer: A Mixed-Methods Study”

(Full-text. Article in press. Published online: September 6, 2019)

https://www.smoa.jsexmed.org/article/S2050-1161(19)30094-7/fulltext

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