Psychosexual functioning of childhood cancer survivors

E M van Dijk, E van Dulmen-den Broeder, G J L Kaspers, E W C M van Dam, K I Braam, J Huisman
Psycho-oncology 2008, 17 (5): 506-11

PURPOSE: The objective of the study is to explore psychosexual functioning and its relationship with quality of life in survivors of cancer in childhood.

METHODS: Sixty childhood cancer survivors completed two questionnaires: psychosexual and social functioning questionnaire and MOS-SF-36.

RESULTS: Psychosexual problems were frequent. About 20% of the survivors felt a limitation in their sexual life due to their illness. Older survivors (> or =25 years) had significantly less experience with sexual intercourse than their age-matched peers in the Dutch population (p = 0.010). Survivors treated in adolescence had a delay in achieving psychosexual milestones compared with those treated in childhood: dating (p<0.025), touching under clothes (p<0.025), masturbation (female) (p<0.05) and sexual intercourse (p<0.025). No differences were found for sexual fantasies, kissing, masturbation (male) and oral sex. The total survivor group appraised their quality of life as less positive than their Dutch peers for the subscales of general and mental health (both p<0.001), physical and social functioning (p<0.01; p<0.001), bodily pain and vitality (both p<0.001). However, quality of life was not more affected adversely in survivors with psychosexual problems compared with survivors without these problems.

CONCLUSION: In this cohort of childhood cancer survivors, psychosexual problems were frequent. Treatment in adolescence is a risk factor for a delay in psychosexual development.

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