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Qualitative Exploration of Sexual Health Among Diverse Breast Cancer Survivors


Although the physical and emotional impact of surgical removal of partial or complete removal of the breast as well as effects of breast cancer treatment on the individual have been well documented, little research is available on sexuality and sexual health of breast cancer survivors in a relationship context. Sexual health concerns of breast cancer survivors remain an unmet need for many. The present study consisted of qualitative interviews with 135 racially diverse, female breast cancer survivors who completed treatment to better understand their perspectives on sexual health and management of sexual problems in their potential and existing relationships after breast cancer. Key thematic findings include that breast cancer survivors have to (1) adapt to the physical and emotional traumas of breast cancer surgery and treatment, (2) navigate complicated sexual communications with potential and existing partners, and (3) negotiate intimacy and closeness without sexual intercourse with existing partners. This study demonstrates the need for healthcare providers to discuss sexual health after breast cancer with all of their patients as it is a concern that faces single and partnered breast cancer survivors months and years after treatment.

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This research was supported by a Research Infrastructure in Minority Institutions (RIMI) Grant 5 P20 MD000544-02 from the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities, NIH, to San Francisco State University. The collection of cancer incidence data used in this study was supported by the California Department of Public Health as part of the statewide cancer reporting program mandated by California Health and Safety Code Section 103885; the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program under contract HHSN261201000140C awarded to the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, contract HHSN261201000035C awarded to the University of Southern California, and contract HHSN261201000034C awarded to the Public Health Institute; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Program of Cancer Registries, under agreement #U58DP003862- 01 awarded to the California Department of Public Health. The ideas and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors, and endorsement by the State of California Department of Public Health, the National Cancer Institute, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or their Contractors andSubcontractors is not intended nor should be inferred.

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Correspondence to Grace J. Yoo.

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Tat, S., Doan, T., Yoo, G.J. et al. Qualitative Exploration of Sexual Health Among Diverse Breast Cancer Survivors. J Canc Educ 33, 477–484 (2018).

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  • Breast cancer
  • Sexual health
  • Racial/ethnic minorities