Survivors of gynecologic cancers may have an elevated risk of sexual dysfunction during the first 1 to 5 years after their cancer diagnosis, compared with the general population, according to research published in Supportive Care in Cancer.

The study included cancer survivors with records in the Utah Cancer Registry whose first primary gynecologic cancer was diagnosed between 1997 and 2012. Survivors were matched with 22,693 cancer-free women from the general population for analyses involving various possible diagnoses of sexual dysfunction.

The researchers used ICD-9 codes to identify sexual dysfunction, including dyspareunia, vaginal dryness/atrophic vaginitis, decreased libido, lack of arousal (female sexual arousal disorder), lack of orgasm (female orgasmic disorder), and other sexual dysfunction.

Continue Reading

Overall, 6.6% of the gynecologic cancer survivors had diagnoses involving sexual dysfunction during the first 1 to 5 years after a cancer diagnosis. Relative to the cancer-free cohort, risks of sexual dysfunction were higher for survivors of gynecologic cancer for dyspareunia (hazard ratio [HR], 3.27; 95% CI, 2.63-4.06), vaginal dryness/atrophic vaginitis (HR, 2.63; 95% CI, 2.21-3.12), and overall sexual dysfunction (HR, 2.51; 95% CI, 2.16-2.93).

Compared with the cancer-free cohort, the risk of overall sexual dysfunction was higher in survivors of ovarian cancer (HR, 2.76; 95% CI, 2.02-3.76), survivors of cervical cancer (HR, 2.72; 95% CI, 1.89-3.92), and survivors of endometrial cancer (HR, 2.35; 95% CI, 1.88-2.92).

Certain clinical or treatment characteristics were also associated with greater risks of sexual dysfunction for survivors of gynecologic cancer. These included having regionally advanced cancer (vs localized), use of chemotherapy, and use of radiation. Use of radiation was associated with higher risks of sexual dysfunction for survivors of ovarian and endometrial cancers, and chemotherapy was associated with a higher risk of sexual dysfunction for survivors of ovarian cancer.

Lack of orgasm was not diagnosed in any of the cancer survivors, and diagnoses of decreased libido, lack of arousal, or other forms of sexual dysfunction were rare in cancer survivors. At more than 5 years after cancer diagnosis, risks of sexual dysfunction diagnoses were not higher among cancer survivors than in the cancer-free cohort. However, the researchers noted that rates of sexual dysfunction diagnoses appeared lower in this study than in patient reports in the literature.

“In conclusion, gynecological cancer patients had a higher risk of sexual dysfunction than women without gynecological cancer; however, the incidence identified in our study was very low in comparison to patient reports,” the researchers wrote.


Chang CP, Wilson CM, Rowe K, et al. Sexual dysfunction among gynecologic cancer survivors in a population-based cohort study. Support Care Cancer. 2022;31(1):51. doi:10.1007/s00520-022-07469-6

This article originally appeared on Oncology Nurse Advisor