Young adults (YAs) treated for cancer commonly report a negative impact on sexual life. However, the situation for YAs with brain tumors is largely unknown. The aim of this study was therefore to compare sexual dysfunction in YAs with brain tumors to those with other types of tumors. Furthermore, to investigate to what extent the YAs with brain tumors had discussed sexual issues with a health care professional.
The Fex-Can study is a population-based study investigating sexual function and fertility-related distress in YAs diagnosed with cancer in Sweden. All patients diagnosed with selected cancers (breast, testicular, cervix, ovarian, lymphoma) or brain tumors at age 18-39 years were identified via National Cancer Quality Registers and approached with a survey approximately 1.5 years after diagnosis. Sexual function was measured with the PROMIS SexFS. To compare proportions between groups, the χ2-test or Fisher's Exact test were used.
A total of 1010 participants (response rate 67%), 123 with brain tumors and 887 with other cancers participated. 41% of the men and 56% of the women with brain tumors reported at least one sexual dysfunction with most problems related to satisfaction with sex life, sexual interest and orgasm ability (only women). Overall, few differences were seen between YAs with brain tumors and YAs with other cancers, regardless of sex. Men with brain tumors reported lower sexual interest (30%) than men with other cancers (12%, p<0.01), whereas women reported less problem with vaginal lubrication (6%) compared to women with other cancers (22%, p<0.01). A majority (68%) of YAs with brain tumors did not recall any discussions of possible impact of the cancer on sex life with a health care professional compared to YAs with other cancers (21%, p<0.001).
Overall, few differences in sexual dysfunction were detected between YAs with brain tumors and other cancers, yet only 20% of the YAs with brain tumors remembered having talked to a caregiver about potential impact on their sex life. There is a need to routinely address sexual issues in clinical care.
Clinical trial identification
Legal entity responsible for the study
Claudia Lampic and Lena Wettergren.
The Cancer Research Foundations of Radiumhemmet (grant number 161272); the Swedish Cancer Society (CAN 2013/886 and CAN 2016/615); the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation (TJ2014-0050); the Vårdal Foundation (2014-0098); the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (2014-4689); the Swedish Research Council (2017-01530).
All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.