Sexual Health Program for Cancer Patients and Survivors

Dana-Farber's Sexual Health Program is committed to addressing patients' concerns about sexual health as an integral part of their care, from diagnosis and treatment through survivorship. The program provides education, consultation, and personalized rehabilitation counseling for patients and their partners who have experienced changes in sexual health during and after cancer treatment.

About the Program

Sharon Bober, PhD, Director of the Sexual Health ProgramSharon Bober, PhD, Director of the Sexual Health Program 

Both during and after cancer treatment, you may notice physical and emotional changes in the way you feel about your body and about sex. This is a common reaction to treatments such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and surgery. You may also feel uncomfortable talking to your doctor or your partner about these changes.

At Dana-Farber, we believe all patients should have access to straightforward information about the ways cancer can affect sexuality. We offer private, compassionate counseling, consultation, and education to help you cope with these changes and find solutions.

Our Services

The Sexual Health Program provides services for women and men, individuals and couples. The program is open to all Dana-Farber patients, as well as patients from other hospitals. Our services include:

  • Sexual rehabilitation counseling for individuals and couples, including coping with menopausal symptoms, erectile dysfunction, discomfort during intercourse, decreased desire, and changes in body image
  • Coping with infertility-related distress
  • Educational workshops
  • Opportunities to get involved with clinical research programs
Clinicians in the Sexual Health Program

Patients may have appointments with:

  • A psychologist specializing in sexual rehabilitation counseling for men, women and couples
  • A gynecologist specializing in female sexual health
  • A urologist with expertise in male sexual health
  • An adult endocrinologist who focuses on hormonal changes after cancer treatment
  • A reproductive endocrinologist who specializes in fertility issues after cancer
  • A fertility expert specializing in fertility and reproductive health during and after cancer treatment

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 617-632-4523 or email sexualhealthprogram@dfci.harvard.edu.

For Cancer Survivors

Sexual problems after cancer treatment: causes and solutions

Sexual difficulties following cancer treatment can be both temporary and lasting, but also manageable, according to the Sexual Health Program at Dana-Farber.

Causes include:

  • Chemotherapy treatments, which can trigger temporary or permanent menopause, among other changes
  • Hormonal therapy for prostate cancer
  • Surgery or radiation for cancers in the pelvic area
  • Physical changes from a mastectomy, colostomy, or other surgical procedure
  • Side effects from medications for pain, nausea, depression, or anxiety
  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • Stress in the relationship

Possible solutions include:

  • Changing one's medications for depression or other emotional concerns
  • Using lubricants, dilators, or other tools to increase comfort
  • Getting more sleep and exercise
  • Being open with your partner, if you have one, about sexual issues
  • Seeking professional help for fertility and other sexual-health concerns

For more information about the Sexual Health Program or to schedule an appointment, call 617-632-4523.

Read Keeping Your Sex Life Going on The American Cancer Society's website.

Learn more about the work of the Sexual Health Program 

Help for cancer survivors with sexual difficulties: a team approach

Reflecting the approach of Dana-Farber's adult treatment centers, the Sexual Health Program delivers care with the efforts and expertise of a multidisciplinary team.

Patients typically meet with program Director Sharon Bober, PhD, and, if they are women, with gynecologist Sandy Falk, MD, who recently joined the Institute and specializes in female sexual health.

Patients may also have appointments with

  • Jean Mulder, MD, an adult endocrinologist who focuses on hormonal changes after cancer treatment;
  • Elizabeth Ginsburg, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist who specializes in fertility issues after cancer;
  • Michael O'Leary, MD, a urologist with expertise in male sexual health.
  • Veronica Sanchez-Varela, PhD, a Dana-Farber postdoctoral fellow, who is available to meet with Spanish-speaking survivors.

Bober's group also collaborates with several Dana-Farber caregivers outside the survivorship program, such as psychiatrist Susan Block, MD, who leads the Department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care.

For more information about the program or to schedule an appointment, call 617-632-4523.

Learn more about clinical and educational support for cancer survivors at Dana-Farber 

 
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Highlight Glossary Terms
  • Sex after Cancer

    • WBUR logo
    • WBUR radio reports on how Dana-Farber's Sexual Health Program helps patients get their "groove" back.
  • Five things every cancer patient should know about sex

    • In this WBUR radio interview, Sharon Bober, PhD, discusses the important facts about sex and sexual health all cancer patients should know before, during, and after treatment.
     
  • How Cancer Treatment Affects Sexuality

    • In these video interviews, Dr. Sharon Bober discusses how cancer treatment affects women's sexuality and men's sexuality, and provides strategies for dealing with changes in sexual health after cancer treatment.
  • Sex after Cancer: A Journey of Renewal for Women

    • screenshot from the Sex after Cancer video Cancer treatment can affect a woman's physical, emotional and psychological well-being, which may, in turn, affect sexuality and intimacy. Watch this video to explore strategies for women to reclaim their sexuality after cancer treatment.