Many women with cancer may experience sexual dysfunction, according to a population-based study published in Acta Oncologica.

In a cohort of nearly 700 women with cancer, more than 60% reported some type of sexual dysfunction. Patients with reproductive cancers were most likely to report sexual dysfunction.

This prospective study enrolled 694 women at 1.5 years after their cancer diagnosis through identification in Swedish national registries. The study also included 493 women without cancer from the general population in Sweden. All participants were 18 to 39 years of age. 

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In the cancer cohort, cancer types included lymphoma and cervical, ovarian, breast, and brain cancers. The mean age was 34.5 years in the cancer cohort and 29.7 years in the control cohort. In both cohorts, most individuals had a partner (85% in the cancer cohort and 81% in the control cohort) and were heterosexual (93% in both groups). 

The researchers used the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) Sexual Function and Satisfaction (SexFs) measurement tool to evaluate sexual activity and function.

Overall, 63% of patients with cancer and 53% of the control cohort reported sexual dysfunction in at least 1 domain. The sexual dysfunction domains that were significantly more likely among patients with cancer included:

  • Dysfunction in vaginal lubrication (odds ratio [OR], 3.10; 95% CI, 1.96-4.91; P <.001) 
  • Vaginal discomfort (OR, 3.02; 95% CI, 1.92-4.76; P <.001)
  • Clitoral discomfort (OR, 1.83; 95% CI, 1.26-2.76; P =.002)
  • Labial discomfort (OR, 1.55; 95% CI, 1.11-2.18; P =.010)
  • Impaired ability to orgasm (OR, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.05-1.96; P =.022)
  • Decreased interest in sex (OR, 1.41; 95% CI, 1.08-1.84; P =.012)
  • Decreased satisfaction with sex life (OR, 1.93; 95% CI, 1.31-2.85; P =.001).

A higher risk of sexual dysfunction in at least 1 domain was significantly associated with having a reproductive cancer (OR, 1.69; 95% CI, 1.27-2.24) but not a non-reproductive cancer (OR, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.54-1.22). 

“A majority of women diagnosed with cancer before the age of 40 experience sexual dysfunction, and they do so to a significantly higher extent than young women of the general population,” the researchers concluded. “Our results underscore the need to routinely assess sexual health in clinical care and follow-up.” 


Wettergren L, Eriksson LE, Bergström C, et al. Prevalence and risk factors for sexual dysfunction in young women following a cancer diagnosis – A  population-based study. Acta Oncologica. Published online September 20, 2022. doi:10.1080/0284186X.2022.2112283