Sexual dysfunction in women with cancer

Sexual function is a major quality of life issue for female cancer survivors, and familiarity with the sexual effects of cancer treatment helps physicians address these issues.

Sandy Falk, M.D., Don S. Dizon, M.D.

Volume 100, Issue 4, Pages 916-921, October 2013


Approximately 14 million people have a history of cancer in the United States alone, and the number is expected to increase with time. This has prompted an appreciation of the quality of life for survivors. Women treated for cancer identify gynecologic issues as a major concern for both general health and the negative impact on sexual function that follow the cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment. Unfortunately, issues related to sexual health continue to be underappreciated. Although comprehensive cancer centers have adopted specialized centers for survivorship issues, including those involving sexual health, consultations are not widely available in most communities. We provide background information on female sexual health, examine the impact of cancer treatment on sexual function, and discuss some of the major sexual health issues of women who have received a cancer diagnosis and been subsequently treated.

  • Taylor

    I am curious why the SERM ospemifene (Osphena), which is indicated for dyspareunia due to vaginal atrophy, was not included in this article? Given it’s molecular origin (ospemifene is a metabolite of toremifine I believe) and lack of breast cancer contraindication, I am eager to learn more about the potential for this drug in the above mentioned patient population.

    • drdondizon

      Dear Taylor: Thank you for your question. Ospemifene is an interesting agent for those of us who see and treat cancer survivors. In theory, it should be safe in women who have a hormone-sensitive breast cancer. However, the reported studies excluded patients with a history of cancer, including breast cancer. Indeed, the label for this agent in the US has breast and endometrial cancers as a contraindication to its use. Both Sandy Falk and I are interested in launching a trial of this agent specifically in cancer survivors so hopefully we can launch the trial and get some data in this much needed group! DSD

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