The National Comprehensive Cancer Center Network is due to update its guidelines on sexual function in cancer survivors during its annual conference in Hollywood, FL.

The updates provide guidelines for initiating discussions regarding screening for sexual dysfunction, and how to respond if the patient wants to pursue treatment or if the patient is not ready to have that conversation, said Joseph B. Narus, DNP, GNP-BC, ANP, a nurse practitioner in the sexual and reproduction program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, NY, who is scheduled to present updates to the on sexual function male cancer survivors.

“Every clinician who treats patients with cancer should be having this conversation before, during and after cancer treatment,” Narus said. “Sexual health issues can arise throughout the course of treatment.”

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Michelle Melisko, MD, associate professor of hematology/oncology at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center in San Francisco, CA, will present the guidelines pertaining to women.

The oncology community has known for years that cancers and cancer treatment can result in sexual dysfunction, but Dr Melisko said the updated guidelines reflect both changes in cancer treatment, and clinicians’ better understanding of the myriad of sexual issues that female survivors can face including body image concerns, pain during sex, or loss of desire.

“The idea of sexual dysfunction was just about physical deformities or how treatment directly affected the body,” she said. “Over the past 5 to 7 years, awareness of survivorship issues has become more important.”

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Dr Melisko said the updated guidelines add a bit more detail to previous recommendations, including advice about using drugs like flibanserin, a non-hormonal, multifunctional serotonin agonist antagonist approved to treat hypoactive sexual desire disorder in premenopausal women.