Information needs associated with changes to sexual well-being after breast cancer

J Adv Nurs. 2013 Feb;69(2):327-37. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2012.06010.x. Epub 2012 Apr 15.


Aims: This article is the report of a study of sexual information needs, experiences of obtaining such information, and patient communication about sexuality with health professionals, after breast cancer.

Background: Changes to sexuality after breast cancer can significantly affect quality of life. However, information needs associated with such changes are little understood, resulting in the absence of a knowledge base to guide information provision aimed at preventing or ameliorating distress.

Design: This study employs a mixed method analysis, integrating qualitative and quantitative responses to an online survey.

Method: Participants were 1965 individuals with breast cancer (98·8% female) drawn from the membership of a national Australian breast cancer organization. The data were collected over 2 weeks in December 2010.

Results: Eighty-five per cent of participants reported changes to sexual well-being after breast cancer, with 68% wanting information on such changes, primarily in a written form. Information on physical changes, sexual response, relationship issues, psychological consequences, and body image or identity, were rated as very important by a substantial proportion of participants. Only 41% had obtained such information; however, 65% had spoken about sexual changes, to partner (76%), G.P. (49%), friend/relative (47%), oncologist (39%), or breast-care nurse (21%). Ratings of satisfaction with the discussion were highest for breast-care nurses (60%) and lowest for oncologists (34%).

Conclusion: These findings provide clinicians and cancer organizations with specific suggestions about sexual information needs after breast cancer and the modalities which are preferred, to prevent and ameliorate distress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Image / psychology
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Communication
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Quality of Life
  • Sexuality*
  • Young Adult