Vaginal dryness and painful intercourse are some of the common adverse events of post-breast cancer treatment therapies. These often lead to sexual dissatisfaction and lower quality of life (QOL) among breast cancer survivors. However, recent findings suggest that women who have partners may fare better than those without a partner.
Breast cancer is the leading cancer diagnosis in women, with more than 266,000 new cases estimated in 2018. More than 70% of these cases occur in women aged older than 50 years. Adjuvant endocrine therapy (AET), such as tamoxifen, is often recommended for postmenopausal women for as long as 10 years after completion of breast cancer treatment as a means to limit the risk of cancer recurrence.
Unfortunately, AET has many adverse effects, including sexual problems in the form of vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, and low sexual desire.
Previous studies have associated sexual problems with poor QOL, whereas others have shown that partnered survivors of breast cancer have better QOL than unpartnered survivors.
However, this new study examined how partner status influences the relationships between sexual problems and self-efficacy for managing sexual problems and QOL domains for postmenopausal survivors of breast cancer taking AET.
Its findings, published in the Journal of the North American Menopause Society suggest that unpartnered postmenopausal women with greater sexual problems or lower self-efficacy may be at a greater risk to experience decreased QOL than partnered women.
"Survivors of breast cancer, particularly those on aromatase inhibitors, often have unaddressed sexual concerns, and healthcare providers aren't asking about them. In this study, postmenopausal, unpartnered women were the most vulnerable to having quality-of-life issues and also sense-of-self affected by unaddressed sexual problems," said JoAnn Pinkerton, lead author of the study.
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