(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – A survey of breast cancer survivors indicates sexual dysfunction is not adequately discussed during routine care but patients do want to discuss this issue with their physicians, investigators reported during the 2012 Breast Cancer Symposium September 14.

Of the 83 women who completed the survey, 64% believed “treatment had a negative impact on their sexual function,” Elizabeth Anne Block, MS, of Michigan State University, Grand Rapids, MI, and colleagues found. “Of those, only 23% discussed the issue with a care provider, while 60% desired a physician-initiated conversation.”

The investigators conducted a 30-question survey of English-speaking patients treated for stage 0-III breast cancer from 2008-2011. Age ranged from 20 to 80 years. The survey included components addressing demographics, treatment for breast cancer, perceived impact on sexual function due to treatment, overall satisfaction with intimate relationships, and factors interfering with intimate relationships.

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Overall, decreased satisfaction with intimate relationships was associated with a negative perception (P<0.001). Treatment-interfering factors cited most frequently were fatigue, hot flashes, scars, dyspareunia, and breast tenderness. However, of these, “only the presence of scars was significantly associated with a perceived negative impact on intimate relationships (P<0.04).”

Patients treated with breast conservation were less likely to perceive a negative impact than those who underwent mastectomy (P=0.036).

“Sexual dysfunction is independent of age, time post surgery, and interfering factors, making it difficult to identify high-risk populations,” the investigators noted. “Therefore, sexual dysfunction should be identified in breast cancer patients during follow-up with interventions made when appropriate.”