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Rectal Cancer Survivors Can Face Sexual Challenges

Aug 15, 2017

The authors acknowledged that the average age of the study participants was 70 years and that sexual function can worsen as people get older.

The patients also provided some details about how rectal cancer treatment had affected their lives, sexual and otherwise.

Coming to grips with the loss of my sexuality. Everything revolves around your colostomy. All timing—travel, recreation, eating, sex—everything requires planning.

I never felt I could be an adequate sexual partner after my operations.

Loss of sexual function is the greatest challenge.

Other participants described relationship strain and anxieties about dating.

However, some did have positive experiences:

It has been nearly [years] since my cancer and life is once again fulfilling with no sexual problems at all.

I have maintained an 11-year relationship with my partner despite my sex problems. Sure I’d like my erections and my energy back, but I’m grateful for what I have.

The study authors emphasized the need for interventions and counseling for rectal cancer patients so that they and their partners can know what to expect when making treatment decisions.


The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Sun, Virginia, PhD, RN, et al.

“Sexual Function and Health-Related Quality of Life in Long-Term Rectal Cancer Survivors”

(Full-text. July 2016)

National Cancer Institute

“Rectal Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version”

(Updated: May 17, 2017)

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