Date: 14 Mar 2014

How often do head and neck cancer patients raise concerns related to intimacy and sexuality in routine follow-up clinics?

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Intimacy and sexuality problems are underreported in head and neck cancer patients. The aim of this study was to collate the various prompts available in a routine follow-up clinic through the use of an intimacy screening question and Patient’s Concerns Inventory (PCI), and to identify how often these problems were raised by patients and what possible actions took place as a consequence. 177 patients completed the intimacy screening question, PCI and UW-QOLv.4 at follow-up clinics, from October 2008 to January 2011. Case note review identified if intimacy was mentioned in clinic letters and if referral for support was made. On the intimacy screening question, 15 % (26) reported problems of considerable/some concern (24) or selected intimacy/sexuality on the PCI (2). The PCI identified that 9 of the 24 reporting the worst problems wanted the topic discussed in clinic, and clinic letters suggested that 5 of these discussed the issue in clinic with 4 being referred on, 3 to a clinical psychologist and 1 to a clinical nurse specialist. Intimacy problems are underreported in clinic reviews. It is a difficult subject to discuss. It will remain a potential unmet need unless attempts are made to advance the opportunities for patient screening, information leaflets, staff training on how to talk about such sensitive issues and referral for counselling.

This clinical outcomes study was not part of a funded research. The paper has not been presented at any conference or published elsewhere.