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Screening for sexual health concerns in survivors of gynecological cancer

Abstract

Objective

To assess the impact of a screening tool, the Brief Sexual Symptom Checklist for Women, on referral rates to physiotherapists, sexual counselors, and psychologists for sexual issues among patients attending the practices of two gynecological oncologists.

Methods

A prospective observational cohort study. A retrospective cohort of consecutive patients matched for age, diagnosis, and stage was used as a control group.

Results

Seventy-eight women were recruited to the intervention group. Diagnoses were endometrial carcinoma (38%), ovarian carcinoma (33%), and cervical carcinoma (24%). Sixty percent had completed adjuvant treatment, and 89% were married or in a de facto relationship. More than half of participants reported at least one sexual difficulty and were not satisfied with their sexual function. The most commonly reported sexual issue was decreased sexual desire. Twelve of 77 (15%) women screened in the intervention group were referred to a sexual counselor and/or a physiotherapist for a sexual issue. Twelve percent of women in the intervention group were referred to a sexual counselor, compared with 5% in the control group (p = 0.072). There was no difference in the proportion of women referred to a pelvic floor physiotherapist between the two groups (8% of women in the intervention group vs. 8% in the control group; p = 1.000).

Conclusions

In the current study, the Brief Sexual Symptom Checklist for Women identified sexual health concerns in over half of gynecological cancer survivors and resulted in a non-significant trend to more referrals for sexual counseling.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to acknowledge the help of Stephanie Jeffares, Research Officer, St John of God Subiaco Hospital, and our sincere thanks to all the patients who participated in the study.

Author information

Correspondence to Paul A. Cohen.

Ethics declarations

Ethical approval for the study was granted by the St John of God Healthcare Human Research Ethics Committee (Reference 942) and informed consent was obtained from all participants.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Appendix. Brief Sexual Symptom Checklist for Women (BSSC-W)

Appendix. Brief Sexual Symptom Checklist for Women (BSSC-W)

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Cite this article

Roberts, K., Chong, T., Hollands, E. et al. Screening for sexual health concerns in survivors of gynecological cancer. Support Care Cancer 28, 599–605 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-019-04872-4

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Keywords

  • Gynecological cancer
  • Sexual function
  • Brief Sexual Symptom Checklist
  • Survivorship
  • Supportive care
  • Screening for sexual issues