Good News for Ovarian Cancer Survivors to Increase their Sexual Function

A Study from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute funded by the Patty Brisben Foundation

I am proud of the sexual health research we fund through the Patty Brisben Foundation. As many of you know, we are focused on improving women’s sexual health and well-being through research and education. The foundation awards grants each year in four key areas — libido and desire, vulvovaginal pain disorders, the impact of perimenopause and menopause on sexual health, and intimacy-related sexual dysfunction after cancer treatment.

We are truly one of the only funding sources for organizations like the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to help with their on-going important research. (Many of you are already donors of PBF, so I thank you for your time and money to continue our mission).

Here is an update from Dr. Sharon Bober from Dana-Farber that I am happy to share with you.

Targeted group intervention can help women who have undergone ovarian cancer treatment improve their sexual health and sense of self, according to a new study from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

At Dana-Farber, Dr. Bober and her research team tested the effectiveness of a targeted education intervention for women who had been treated for ovarian cancer between two and 20 years ago. The women, who were 50 years old on average, were healthy in that they had survived cancer. However, many reported profound sexual dysfunction, including pain during intercourse, loss of desire and vaginal dryness.

For a variety of reasons — the idea that women after menopause or illness don’t care about sex, the patient being so happy to have survived cancer that sexual dysfunction seems trivial, the doctor being focused on other care — sexual health can get overlooked during and after cancer treatment.

 The Dana-Farber study raises awareness of sexual dysfunction as a medical concern and, in the end, showed that a simple intervention could help.

“This is not something that even gets addressed,” Bober said. “But it is relevant. Women do care. … Women want help and women can be helped.”

For the study, women went through a half-day group session that provided them with education about their bodies and minds. They were asked to create an action plan for their sexual health and received take-home materials and one follow-up call as part of the intervention.

Six months later, women are reporting positive outcomes, Bober said. They are reporting improved sexual function as well as positive changes in their psychological outlook.

The study serves as pilot data for additional research into interventions for women treated for other gynecological cancers, Bober said. It also could have implications for general care for women, both after cancer treatment and after midlife and menopause.

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