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  • 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

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

    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, including psychiatrists in the Department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care.

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

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

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