Sexual functioning among young adult cancer patients: A 2-year longitudinal study

Cancer. 2018 Jan 15;124(2):398-405. doi: 10.1002/cncr.31030. Epub 2017 Nov 17.


Background: Cancer-related sexual dysfunction has been reported among adolescents and young adults (AYAs); however, its prevalence over time has not been examined. This longitudinal study investigated sexual dysfunction in AYAs over the course of 2 years after the initial diagnosis.

Methods: Young adult patients (18-39 years old) completed the Medical Outcomes Study Sexual Functioning Scale within the first 4 months of their diagnosis (n = 123) and again 6 (n = 107) and 24 months later (n = 95). An ordered multinomial response model analyzed changes in the probability of reporting sexual dysfunction over time and the independent effects of demographic, clinical, and psychosocial variables.

Results: More than half of the participants reported sexual functioning to be problematic at each assessment. The probability of reporting sexual dysfunction increased over time (P < .01) and was greater for cancer patients who were female (P < .001), older (P < .01), married or in a committed relationship (P < .001), treated with chemotherapy (P < .05), and reporting comorbid psychological distress (P < .001) and lower social support (P < .05). For women, being in a relationship increased the likelihood of reporting sexual problems over time; for men, the likelihood of reporting sexual problems increased regardless of their relationship status.

Conclusions: A substantial proportion of young adults report ongoing problems with sexual functioning in the first 2 years after their cancer diagnosis. These findings justify the need to evaluate and monitor sexual functioning throughout a continuum of care. Cancer 2018;124:398-405. © 2017 American Cancer Society.

Keywords: adolescents; adolescents and young adults (AYAs); cancer; sexual functioning; young adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Probability
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / epidemiology
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Young Adult