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The sexual health of female rectal and anal cancer survivors: results of a pilot randomized psycho-educational intervention trial



Sexual dysfunction is a frequently reported consequence of rectal/anal cancer treatment for female patients.


The purpose of this study was to conduct a small randomized controlled trial to assess the efficacy of a telephone-based, four-session Cancer Survivorship Intervention-Sexual Health (CSI-SH).


Participants (N = 70) were stratified by chemotherapy, stoma, and menopause statuses before randomization to CSI-SH or assessment only (AO). Participants were assessed at baseline, 4 months (follow-up 1), and 8 months (follow-up 2).


The intervention had medium effect sizes from baseline to follow-up 1, which decreased by follow-up 2. Effect sizes were larger among the 41 sexually active women. Unadjusted means at the follow-ups were not significantly different between the treatment arms. Adjusting for baseline scores, demographics, and medical variables, the intervention arm had significantly better emotional functioning at follow-ups 1 and 2 and less cancer-specific stress at follow-up 1 compared to the AO arm.


The data supported the hypothesized effects on improved sexual and psychological functioning and quality of life in CSI-SH female rectal/anal cancer survivors compared to the AO condition.

Condensed Abstract

This pilot study (N = 70) of CSI-SH supported the impact of this intervention on sexual and psychological functioning and quality of life on rectal and anal cancer survivors compared with an AO condition. However, intervention effects were stronger at follow-up 1 as compared to follow-up 2 and were stronger for sexually active women.

Implications for Cancer Survivors

Women may benefit from a brief, four-session, sexual health intervention after treatment from rectal and anal cancer.

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Support for this research was provided by grants from the National Cancer Institute (R21 CA129195 and T32 CA009461) and the MSK Cancer Center Support Grant/Core Grant (P30 CA008748).

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Correspondence to Katherine DuHamel.

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DuHamel, K., Schuler, T., Nelson, C. et al. The sexual health of female rectal and anal cancer survivors: results of a pilot randomized psycho-educational intervention trial. J Cancer Surviv 10, 553–563 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11764-015-0501-8

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  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Female
  • Rectal cancer
  • Anal cancer
  • Psychological distress