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ESMO E-Learning: Sexuality and Intimacy after Cancer

E-learning video block

This content is for ESMO members only.



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Learning objectives

  • To understand the incidence and significance of sexual health in patients diagnosed with cancer
  • To understand the relationship between intimacy and intercourse for women and men
  • To understand what providers can do to address sexual health issues in their patients with cancer 


Advances in oncology treatment result in an increased population of cancer survivors. Some problems that were not traditionally seen as a priority in doctor-patient communications have become more important in oncology clinics today. One of the most prevalent among cancer survivors concerns sexual dysfunction. Indeed, one survey shows that among those who reported the problems, less than half received medical care. This E-Learning module is an important attempt from ESMO side to tackle sexuality and intimacy issues after cancer and increase educational opportunities for oncology professionals in this important topic. Although it’s a culturally sensitive issue, the author provides evidence based information in terms of means for professional help and provides useful advice on how to encourage communication and act proactively during the consultation. Sexual health is impacted regardless of cancer type. The NCI estimates that 40-100% of cancer survivors experience some form of sexual dysfunction. The author summarizes currently available evidence regarding approaches to sexual dysfunction treatment and emphasizes that re-defining sex after cancer is a process that takes time. The author encourages to define the patient’s needs in addition to acknowledging his/her partner’s.In this module, the author underlines how physical effects of cancer treatment may impact sexual functioning. It’s not only about change in body image, the number of factors to be considered are thoroughly elaborated. For example, even a partial mastectomy can interfere with sexual pleasure. In fact, surgical treatment, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy for treatment of different cancers can cause different problems.The issues tackled in this module range from broadening the concepts of both sex and intimacy, ways to make sexual activities more pleasurable to addressing desire after cancer, as well as the active treatment approaches for sexual dysfunction. Overall, the module addresses different aspects of sexual dysfunction after treatment in both, men and women with cancer. 

Declaration of interest

The author has reported no conflicts of interest

Last update: 28 Nov 2019

This E-Learning module was published in 2017. The CME test expired in 2019. The author provided a module update as PDF presentation in 2019.

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