Partner’s Perspective on Long-term Sexual Dysfunction After Prostate Cancer Treatment

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Prostate cancer is the most common type of male cancer in the United States and the negative effect of prostate cancer treatment on sexual function has been well documented. The objective of this study was to examine the long-term impact of sexual dysfunction on spouses or partners of prostate cancer survivors.


A total of 742 spouses of prostate cancer survivors was mailed surveys by the Michigan Public Health Institute, of which 379 were returned (51%). Nine surveys were excluded owing to study ineligibility. Spouses responding to the survey completed a combination of modified items from the Sexual Adjustment Questionnaire and researcher-developed items.


Over 75% of spouses reported a decline in sex life quality after treatment. Communication about sexual issues between survivors and their health care providers was rated as good to excellent by 54.7% of partners, whereas 35.1% reported it as fair to poor. Approximately 60% of physicians initially recommended some form of sexual treatment. However, despite the persistence of sexual dysfunction, only 7% of the prostate cancer survivors were currently receiving treatment. Only 4.1% of health care providers referred the survivor to a sex therapist.


Physicians need to understand the importance of the open, ongoing communication with prostate cancer survivors about sexual issues because sexual dysfunction seems to continue indefinitely after completion of treatment. Research on the effectiveness of behavioral interventions in restoring sexual health is critically needed for this population, especially as first-line sexual aids and medications are often not satisfactory solutions.

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