Sexuality is a human experience across the lifespan: it is a multidimensional experience that involves physiology, behavior, emotion, cognition, and identity.
The topic is somewhat shunned in oncology care, and perhaps even more so in palliative care. A study reports that fewer than half (45%) of all cancer patients had a conversation with their health care provider about sex. By cancer type, 21% of lung cancer patients had such a conversation, as did 33% of breast cancer patients, 41% of colorectal cancer patients, and 80% of prostate cancer patients.
Expressions of sexuality can be a vital aspect of providing comfort and relieving suffering, maintaining connections in the face of life-limiting illness, and affirming a sense of self when other roles are lost. When sexually is not made part of care, there is an implicit message that is it no longer important and/or the challenges cannot be addressed.
Some of the reported reasons for not discussing sexuality are reactions of colleagues, fear of litigation, and fear of misinterpretation.
The topic needs to be brought up in the context of quality of life. Preliminary data demonstrates that "low-tech" interventions can make a dramatic difference for patients.
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Adapted from Medscape News & Perspective. Time to have the talk! Sex and the cancer patient. Internet. Available at https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/888119?src=wnl_edit_tpal&uac=6705FY#vp_1. Accessed on January 4, 2018. To view the entire article and all other content on the Medscape News and Perspective site, a free, one-time registration is required.