New Booklet Answers Questions About Sex and Cancer

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By Mary Brolley, Staff Writer
A new booklet from the Patient Education Office at M. D. Anderson answers some of the questions patients have about sexuality and how cancer affects it.

In straightforward language, Sexuality and Cancer acknowledges sex is an issue when patients are facing a health crisis.

Targeted to patients and their partners, topics include treatment effects, emotional effects, fertility issues, relationships and resources within and beyond M. D. Anderson.

schover_0509.jpgConcerns are common

"Half of cancer survivors have sexual problems," says Leslie Schover, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Behavioral Science. "This booklet lets them know it's legitimate for them to have -- and to ask -- questions about how cancer or treatment might affect sexual function."

Survivors of four of the most common types of cancer may well find their sex lives are affected by cancer or its treatment.

"Treatment for prostate, breast, colorectal and gynecological cancers is likely to have an effect on sexual function, body image or fertility," Schover says.

Go ahead and ask

Many patients are reluctant to raise the subject when making treatment decisions. It's often an issue of time.

"Physicians are busy, and appointments go quickly," she says. "We want patients to know that these are legitimate questions to ask."

Schover is a national expert on the impact of cancer treatment on sexual function and relationships, fertility and attitudes to childbearing. She has developed an interactive educational CD-ROM, "Banking on Fatherhood," to make physicians and patients aware of the option to bank sperm in advance of cancer treatment.

"There's a narrow window of time for young patients to consider their fertility options," she says.

Research and progress continue

Schover has written extensively on the subject for the American Cancer Society and in several books.

With funding from the ACS and additional pilot funding from the M. D. Anderson Prostate Cancer Research Program, she has developed a Web-based intervention to improve sexual rehabilitation after treatment for localized prostate cancer.

Read more Feature Stories from Cancerwise

M. D. Anderson Resources:

Q&A: Sexual Relationships and Cancer
Audio Podcast - Sexuality and the Cancer Patient

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