Discussing Sexual Health with Adolescent and Young Adults with Cancer: a Qualitative Study Among Healthcare Providers

J Cancer Educ. 2022 Feb;37(1):133-140. doi: 10.1007/s13187-020-01796-0.


Sexual health is an important aspect of quality-of-life for adolescent and young adult (AYA) patients with cancer. AYAs report a need for information about sexual health but experience a lack of communication with their healthcare provider. It is known that sexual health is a difficult theme for healthcare providers to discuss. This study aims to gain insight into perspectives of healthcare providers in facilitating AYAs' needs regarding sexual health. A qualitative study was performed. Six doctors and eight nurses from eight Dutch hospitals, specialized in AYA care, participated in semi-structured interviews. All interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using a thematic analysis approach. Interviews with the healthcare providers revealed five themes concerning the discussion of sexual health: (1) being responsible for bringing up the topic of sexual health, (2) finding optimal timing to discuss sexual health, (3) acquiring knowledge to enable discussion of sexual health, (4) facilitating communication about sexual health, and (5) providing informative material for AYAs. To facilitate discussing sexual health, clear defined responsibilities within the team and sufficient knowledge are important. Self-report questionnaires, material to hand out, a checklist for healthcare providers, and knowledge of different communication strategies are helpful when discussing sexual health. By applying such means, communication with AYAs might be improved.

Keywords: Adolescent and young adult (AYA); Cancer; Healthcare provider (HCP); Information provision; Sexual health.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Palliative Care
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sexual Health* / education
  • Young Adult