The American Cancer Society declared that there is an estimated 18 million cancer survivors by 2022 in the United States, a significant increase from the current 13.7 million cancer survivors this year. This improvement in the statistics of people surviving cancer is due to the modern cancer treatments that are available now. However, it appears that the long term treatment of cancer can potentially increase the risks for debilitating side effects such as cognitive impairments and cardiovascular complications.
One of these chronic side effects that a cancer survivor may experience after long term treatment for cancer and is a condition hardly recognized is sexual disability. The condition is commonly ignored and is highly prevalent among adult survivors of pediatric cancers. According to Sharon Bober, the Sexual Health Program Director of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute located in Boston, these patients continuously struggle from sexual disabilities and oftentimes confused where to get help. The common cancer treatments that cause detrimental side effects to sexual health include chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and hormonal therapy.
Another significant finding includes the discovery that sexual problems also extend to affect sexual desires, ability to attain orgasm, arousal and satisfaction in a relationship. This was apparent among women who survived breast cancer and reported vaginal dryness, pain on their genital, skin sensitivity, fertility problems, premature menopause and significant fatigue. Men who survived cancers were also known to suffer from erectile dysfunction.
According to a study, even when the cancer treatment ceases the side effects remain and may continue to progress. Cancer survivors report that after their therapies for cancer, they experienced long term sexual difficulties and issues even when they are no longer under treatment. Taking hormonal therapy in the long term including receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatment could reduce the sex drive of a cancer survivor. The sexual disorders that cancer survivors experience significantly affect their relationship with their partners and some even feel uncomfortable of dating. Patients often face self confidence issues after their treatment.
Doctors need to be more open in discussing sexual health and difficulties with their patients who are cancer survivors. Patients with sexual disorder are not comfortable about discussing it with their doctor owing to low morale and low self confidence and their physicians should initiate the conversation at the same time making their patients to feel more comfortable in discussing about sexual health issues. Each cancer patient usually focuses on survival while at the stage of battling cancer. As they pass the stage of surviving, their life is transformed in focusing on other aspects of life such as building relationships and attending on their sexual needs.
Helping cancer survivors to get back their normal life again including helping them gaining normalcy on their sexual life should be one of the priorities in their recovery programs. According to Ian Kerner, a sex expert from CNN, cancer can test relationships as the condition could lead to depression and other long term consequences such as sexuality disorders.