February 15, 2018
2 min read

Cancer centers lack aids to improve sexual dysfunction among survivors

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Various cancer centers reported having no therapeutic aids available for men and women to help improve sexual health after cancer treatment, according to results of a study scheduled for presentation at the Cancer Survivorship Symposium: Advancing Cancer and Research.

“We know sexual dysfunction is one of the most significant and distressing problems for a majority of cancer survivors,” Sharon Bober, PhD, psychologist and director of the sexual health program in the department of psychosocial oncology and palliative care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, said during a press cast. “We also know cancer survivors are either unsure or not aware of how to get help for these problems.”

Bober and colleagues conducted phone surveys to retail staff at 25 NCI-designated cancer centers or National Comprehensive Cancer Network-member institutions and queried about aids for sexual dysfunction and what recommendations they used for accessing resources if no aids were available.

The researchers made separate phone calls to determine availability of aids for men and women.

Of 23 centers who responded about aids for men, 87% reported no available sexual aids. Of 22 centers who responded about aids for women, 72% had no aids.

“Unfortunately, what we found is the majority of folks did not have options to offer,” Bober said. “Upon further query, they were uncomfortable when asked if there were further resources or pamphlets available and other kinds of information or resources.”

One center carried a vacuum device and two centers had penile support rings. Six centers had various aids for women including personal lubricants, moisturizers and dilators. One center had three or more products for men.

Only one center had an extensive list of products and resources for both men and women.

“This [center] may serve as a model when we think about the needs for cancer survivors in general,” Bober said.

Further recommendations for patients included suggesting a local pharmacy or using the internet to find appropriate aids.

“The scarcity of all of these products really underscores the cultural taboos around sexual dysfunction, as did some of the discomfort of the staff responding to our calls,” Bober said. Compared with other therapeutic products and supportive care products like wigs, prosthetics and sunscreen, the lack of availability of sexual aids was “really notable,” Bober said.

“Our hopes in moving forward are to [refer to the] centers that did use products and think about how they can be used as a model because for patients and providers, having therapeutic aids accessible on site really promotes sexual rehabilitation and allows providers to start conversations with patients when they feel they have resources to refer to.” – by Melinda Stevens



Bober S, et al. Abstract 134. Scheduled for presentation at: Cancer Survivorship Symposium: Advancing Care and Research; Feb. 16-17, 2018; Orlando, Fla.


Disclosures: Bober reports research funding from Apex Neuro. The other authors report no relevant financial disclosures.