Sexual Dysfunction in Young Adult Survivors of Childhood Cancer

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Disruption of psychosexual development and sexual dysfunction are well recognized as profoundly distressing long-term side effects of pediatric cancer treatment. However, little is known about the specific sexual problems facing young adult survivors of childhood cancer (YASCC) and their unmet clinical needs. In this study, we aimed to utilize qualitative methods to characterize sexual dysfunction in YASCC and identify survivor-reported unmet clinical need regarding sexual health information and care.


Semistructured interviews were conducted with 22 YASCC (ages 18–31; 10 men, 12 women) reporting sexual dysfunction. Interviews were conducted in English by phone or in person. All interviews were audiorecorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using a thematic analysis approach. Inductive open-coding procedures identified participants’ experiences with sexual dysfunction and clinical care needs. Themes were identified by grouping pattern-forming codes in the data.


Interviews with YASCC reporting sexual dysfunction revealed five overarching themes including interruption of adolescent psychosocial development, physical and psychological problems with sexual function, altered perceptions of body image, concern about fertility, and inadequate clinical support.


The experiences described by YASCC provide valuable insight into the nature of sexual dysfunction in this population and their clinical care needs. These data provide the framework for future research on sexual dysfunction screening measures, patient–physician communication, and effective interventions to address sexual dysfunction in YASCC.

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