Sexual Issues for Cancer Survivors

From Fight Colorectal Cancer’s October 2012 webinar

With 12 million people in the U.S. living with and beyond cancer, health and psychosocial issues facing survivors are finally becoming active topics of research and discussion.

The Oct. 20th Journal of Clinical Oncology  is a special “survivorship” issue featuring an array of special articles primarily focusing on the health issues such as bone health, symptoms like  chemobrain, lifestyle factors such as physical activity to help prevent recurrence. Articles also focus on fertility preservation, and sexuality issues in cancer survivors.

“It has become clear that sexual function is often profoundly disrupted by cancer treatment,” wrote the authors of a review article “Sexuality in Adult Cancer Survivors.” 

The special ‘survivorship” issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology summarizes progress and research in the past 7 years, since the Institute of Medicine and the JCO first published special reports about what was then an emerging field of survivorship study. In this issue, authors Sharon Bober and Veronica Varela discuss sexuality issues among all cancer survivors.

For those with colorectal cancer, they noted, pelvic surgery and/or radiation can damage nerves and cause erectile and ejaculatory problems for men, and for women, low desire, lubrication problems, pain with vaginal changes.

Fight Colorectal Cancer webinar explains nerve-sparing rectal cancer surgery

Fight Colorectal Cancer recently presented nationally-renowned radiation oncology researcher Dr. Joel Tepper of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in an hour-long webinar focusing on sex after rectal cancer treatment. He noted that women can be particularly affected because the rectum shares a very thin wall with the vagina, but that for both sexes, “not much research or good information is available.” However, Dr. Tepper’s clear, methodical presentation of issues faced by colorectal cancer patients–including illustrations of how recently improved surgical techniques can  spare pelvic nerves—goes a long way in helping colorectal cancer patients understand sexuality issues and treatments they might consider.

Sources: Journal of Clinical Oncology, Vol. 30, No. 30, Oct. 20, 2012 pp.3712-3718; and the October 2012 Fight Colorectal Cancer’s webinar “Will Rectal Cancer Treatment Affect My Sexuality” .

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