Sociodemographic and clinical factors affecting body image, sexual function and sexual satisfaction in women with breast cancer

J Clin Nurs. 2016 Jun;25(11-12):1557-65. doi: 10.1111/jocn.13125. Epub 2016 Jan 27.


Aims and objectives: To evaluate the effect of sociodemographic and clinical factors on body image, sexual function and sexual satisfaction in women following breast cancer treatment.

Background: Women with breast cancer may experience a wide range of symptoms associated with body image and sexuality that can severely affect their quality of life. Therefore, the health care professional's ability to understand the patient's complaints and her sexual history is highly relevant in specialised multidisciplinary care.

Design: A cross-sectional survey.

Methods: Seventy-seven participants were included. Body image, sexual function and sexual satisfaction were evaluated using the EORTC QLQ-BR23 questionnaire. Results were shown as means, standard deviations, frequencies and percentages. Cronbach's alpha was calculated. Spearman's correlation test, the chi-square test and multivariate logistic regression were used in the statistical analysis, conducted using the spss statistical software package, version 17.0.

Results: Low scores were found in the desire (34·63), frequency (32·03) and sexual satisfaction (45·91) domains, while body image scores were higher (63·57). No strong correlation was found between body image and any of the other domains. Patients without a steady partner experienced more sexual desire (p < 0·04) and more frequent sexual activity (p < 0·01). Sexual activity was also more frequent (p < 0·03) in women with a higher education level and in those using aromatase inhibitors.

Conclusions: Sexual function and satisfaction were affected to a greater extent than body image. No association was found between body image and sexual performance. The effect of marital status and education level on sexual function merits particular attention.

Relevance to clinical practice: A well-trained multidisciplinary team should be available to evaluate women's need for support and to provide information on the disease, its treatment and its impact on their lives and on their sexuality.

Keywords: body image; breast cancer; quality of life; sexuality.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Image*
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Orgasm
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Quality of Life
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires