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Sexual activity and quality of life in patients after treatment for breast and ovarian cancer



Sexual activity (SA) and functioning (SF) are important factors influencing quality of life (QoL). Anticancer treatment can cause or promote sexual dysfunctions. In this study we analyzed the SA, SF and QoL in patients after completion of treatment for breast cancer (BC) and ovarian cancer (OC).


In this retrospective multicenter study 396 BC patients and 93 OC patients aged between 18 and 70 years were surveyed at least 24 months after cancer diagnosis and compared to 60 healthy women. Data were collected through validated questionnaires (Sexual Activity Questionnaire, Female Sexual Function Index-d, EORTC Quality of Life Questionnaire-C30).


45.9% of BC patients and 56.5% of OC patients reported SA. SF and well-being of sexually active BC patients were not influenced by the type and radicality of surgery or the administration of chemotherapy. Patients who received antihormonal therapy at the time of evaluation showed a lower frequency of SA (p = 0.007), less satisfaction (p = 0.003) and more discomfort during SA (p = < 0.001) compared to healthy controls but no differences in experiencing orgasms, health status, QoL and global health status. In contrast, BC patients without antihormonal therapy showed only a higher discomfort score (p = 0.028) than healthy controls and estimated their health status and QoL significantly better than patients who received antihormonal therapy (p = 0006). In general, SA was associated with a better health status (p = 0.007), a better QoL (p = 0.004) and a better global health status (p = 0.004) in BC patients. Sexually active OC patients showed no significant differences in SF, QoL and health status compared to healthy controls.


Compared to healthy controls BC patients showed limitations in SF with a lower SA rate and more discomfort. Antihormonal therapy was an important factor influencing SF and well-being. Breast and OC survivors reported good physical and psychical health without differences in QoL and health status compared to controls. This might be explained by a change of perspective on life difficulties and altered priorities through a life threatening disease.

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SM protocol/project development, data collection, data analysis, manuscript writing/editing. SI data collection, data analysis. DG data collection, manuscript editing. LS data collection. SM Protocol/project development, data collection. MB data collection, manuscript writing/editing. LW Protocol/project development, data collection, manuscript editing. PJV data collection. GG data collection. AH Protocol/project development, data collection, manuscript writing/editing

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Correspondence to Annette Hasenburg.

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The authors declare no potential conlicts of interest.

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Mayer, S., Iborra, S., Grimm, D. et al. Sexual activity and quality of life in patients after treatment for breast and ovarian cancer. Arch Gynecol Obstet 299, 191–201 (2019).

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  • Quality of life
  • Sexual activity
  • Sexual function
  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer