Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sexual Problems Rarely Addressed By Internists Caring For Cancer Survivors

Date:
October 27, 2009
Source:
Massachusetts General Hospital
Summary:
Few internists who care for cancer survivors address issues of sexual dysfunction with their patients, according to a new study. More than half the internists responding to a survey indicated they rarely or never discussed sexual problems with their patients who had survived cancer.

Few internists who care for cancer survivors address issues of sexual dysfunction with their patients, according to a study led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers. In their article appearing in a November 2009 cancer survivor supplement to the Journal of General Internal Medicine, now available online, the investigators report that more than half the internists responding to a survey indicated they rarely or never discussed sexual problems with their patients who had survived cancer.

"Sexual dysfunction is an important quality-of-life issue that many cancer survivors struggle with," says Elyse Park, PhD, MPH, of the MGH Institute for Health Policy, who led the study. "If these conversations are not happening in the primary care physician's office, they're not likely to be happening anywhere."

As more cancer patients live longer after treatment, quality-of-life concerns become more important. Sexual dysfunction is common not only among prostate and breast cancer survivors but also in significant percentages of survivors of other types of tumors. Problems may result from the cancer itself or its treatment, and patients can also experience depression, anxiety and concerns about body image that can interfere with desire, intimacy and sexual functioning. While many effective treatments are available for sexual dysfunction, the authors note, treatment can only begin if affected patients are identified. And for more and more cancer survivors, the primary care physician is their most significant health care provider.

The current report is part of a larger survey of primary care physicians' caring for cancer survivors. Among questions on the survey sent to more than 200 internists affiliated with the University of Colorado were how often they addressed issues of sexual dysfunction with adult cancer survivors and how likely they were to initiate such discussions. Only 46 percent reported they were somewhat or very likely to bring up sexual issues during a patient visit, and 62 percent indicated they rarely or never addressed the subject with cancer survivors.

Factors associated with a physician's being more likely to address sexual issues were spending more time delivering direct patient care and feeling better prepared to care for cancer survivors in general. Lack of time was not cited as a barrier, and another predictor of the likelihood of discussions was the internists' perceptions of patient anxieties and fears about their health. "While conversations about sexual problems did not appear to be a standard part of most respondents' interactions with patients, it's interesting that such conversations were more likely to take place if they sensed that something was bothering the patient," Park says.

"Patients are often referred to me for anxiety or depression associated with cancer or other medical problems, but sexual health is almost never mentioned in the referral," adds Park, who is a clinical health psychologist and assistant professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "It turns out that sexual issues are involved the majority of the time. They're a big aspect of what's going on with these patients, but are almost never being addressed." She and her colleagues cite the need for additional training to better prepare internists and other primary care practitioners to discuss sexual concerns with cancer survivors and other patients.

Co-authors of the Journal of General Internal Medicine article are Eric Campbell, PhD, MGH Institute for Health Policy; Sharon Bober, PhD, Christopher Recklitis, PhD, MPH, and Lisa Diller, MD, Perini Family Survivors' Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; and Jean Kutner, MD, MSPH, University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine. The study was supported by grants from the Swim Across American Foundation and the American Cancer Society.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts General Hospital. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Massachusetts General Hospital. "Sexual Problems Rarely Addressed By Internists Caring For Cancer Survivors." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 October 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091021125137.htm>.
Massachusetts General Hospital. (2009, October 27). Sexual Problems Rarely Addressed By Internists Caring For Cancer Survivors. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091021125137.htm
Massachusetts General Hospital. "Sexual Problems Rarely Addressed By Internists Caring For Cancer Survivors." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091021125137.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nine-Month-Old Baby Can't Open His Mouth

Nine-Month-Old Baby Can't Open His Mouth

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2014) Nine-month-old Wyatt Scott was born with a rare disorder called congenital trismus, which prevents him from opening his mouth. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) In a potential breakthrough for future obesity treatments, scientists have used MRI scans to pinpoint brown fat in a living adult for the first time. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) A new report shows rates of two foodborne infections increased in the U.S. in recent years, while salmonella actually dropped 9 percent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The breakthrough could mean a cure for some serious diseases and even the possibility of human cloning, but it's all still a way off. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins