A manifesto on the preservation of sexual function in women and girls with cancer

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2015 Aug;213(2):166-74. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2015.03.039. Epub 2015 Mar 25.


Malignancies that affect females who survive cancer commonly originate in, invade, and/or metastasize to the sexual organs, including the ovaries, uterine corpus, uterine cervix, vagina, vulva, fallopian tubes, anus, rectum, breast(s), and brain. Females comprise most of the population (in number and proportion) with cancers that directly affect the sexual organs. Most females in the age groups most commonly affected by cancer are sexually active in the year before diagnosis, which includes most menopausal women who have a partner. Among female cancer survivors, the vast majority have cancers that are treated with local or systemic therapies that result in removal, compromise, or destruction of the sexual organs. Additionally, female cancer survivors often experience abrupt or premature onset of menopause, either directly with surgery, radiation, or other treatments or indirectly through disruption of female sex hormone or other neuroendocrine physiology. For many female patients, cancer treatment has short-term and long-lasting effects on other aspects of physical, psychological, and social functioning that can interfere with normal sexual function; these effects include pain, depression, and anxiety; fatigue and sleep disruption; changes in weight and body image; scars, loss of normal skin sensation, and other skin changes; changes in bodily odors; ostomies and loss of normal bowel and bladder function; lymphedema, and strained intimate partnerships and other changes in social roles. In spite of these facts, female patients who are treated for cancer receive insufficient counseling, support, or treatment to preserve or regain sexual function after cancer treatment.

Keywords: cancer; female sexual function; sexual outcome; survivor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • Body Image
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Depression
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Menopause, Premature
  • Pain
  • Quality of Life
  • Research
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / prevention & control*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / prevention & control*
  • Sexual Partners
  • Spouses
  • Survivors*