Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 763–772

The sexual health care needs after colorectal cancer: the view of patients, partners, and health care professionals

  • Marjan J. Traa
  • Jolanda De Vries
  • Jan A. Roukema
  • Harm J. T. Rutten
  • Brenda L. Den Oudsten
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00520-013-2032-z

Cite this article as:
Traa, M.J., De Vries, J., Roukema, J.A. et al. Support Care Cancer (2014) 22: 763. doi:10.1007/s00520-013-2032-z



Sexual dysfunction among patients with colorectal cancer is frequently reported. Studies examining patients’ sexual health care needs are rare. We examined the sexual health care needs after colorectal cancer treatment according to patients, partners, and health care professionals (HCPs). Factors that impede or facilitate the quality of this care were identified.


Participants were recruited from three Dutch hospitals: St. Elisabeth, TweeSteden, and Catharina hospitals. Patients (n = 21), partners (n = 9), and 10 HCPs participated in eight focus groups.


It is important to regularly evaluate and manage sexual issues. This does not always occur. Almost all participants reported a lack of knowledge and feelings of embarrassment or inappropriateness as barriers to discuss sexuality. HCPs reported stereotypical assumptions regarding the need for care based on age, sex, and partner status. The HCPs debated on whose responsibility it is that sexuality is discussed with patients. Factors within the organization, such as insufficient re-discussion of sexuality during (long-term) follow-up and unsatisfactory (knowledge of the) referral system impeded sexual health care. The HCPs could facilitate adequate sexual health care by providing patient-tailored information and permission to discuss sex, normalizing sexual issues, and establishing an adequate referral system. It is up to the patients and partners to demarcate the extent of sexual health care needed.


Our findings illustrate the need for patient-tailored sexual health care and the complexity of providing/receiving this care. An adequate referral system and training are needed to help HCPs engage in providing satisfactory sexual health care.


Sexuality Intimacy Health care needs Colorectal cancer Focus group 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marjan J. Traa
    • 1
  • Jolanda De Vries
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jan A. Roukema
    • 1
    • 3
  • Harm J. T. Rutten
    • 4
    • 6
  • Brenda L. Den Oudsten
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.CoRPS—Center of Research on Psychology in Somatic Diseases, Department of Medical and Clinical PsychologyTilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Medical PsychologyTilburgThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of SurgerySt. Elisabeth HospitalTilburgThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Department of SurgeryCatharina HospitalEindhovenThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Department of Education and ResearchSt. Elisabeth HospitalTilburgThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Research Institute for Growth & DevelopmentMaastricht University Medical CenterMaastrichtThe Netherlands

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