Sexual dysfunction following rectal cancer surgery

Sexual and urological problems after surgery for rectal cancer are common, multifactorial, inadequately discussed, and untreated. The urogenital function is dependent on dual autonomic sympathetic and parasympathetic innervation, and four key danger zones exist that are at risk for nerve damage during colorectal surgery: one of these sites is in the abdomen and three are in the pelvis. The aim of this study is to systematically review the epidemiology of sexual dysfunction following rectal cancer surgery, to describe the anatomical basis of autonomic nerve-preserving techniques, and to explore the scientific evidence available to support the laparoscopic or robotic approach over open surgery.

According to the PRISMA guidelines, a comprehensive literature search of studies evaluating sexual function in patients undergoing rectal surgery for cancer was performed in Medline, Scopus, Web of Science, Embase, and Cochrane Central Register of controlled trials.

An increasing number of studies assessing the incidence and prevalence of sexual dysfunction following multimodality treatment for rectal cancer has been published over the last 30 years. Significant heterogeneity in the prevalence of sexual dysfunction is reported in the literature, with rates between 5 and 90%.

There is no evidence to date in favor of any surgical approach (open vs laparoscopic vs robotic). Standardized diagnostic tools should be routinely used to prospectively assess sexual function in patients undergoing rectal surgery.

International journal of colorectal disease. 2017 May 11 [Epub ahead of print]

V Celentano, R Cohen, J Warusavitarne, O Faiz, M Chand

Department of Colorectal Surgery, Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, Southwick Hill Rd, Portsmouth, PO6 3LY, UK. ., Department of Colorectal Surgery, University College London Hospitals, 235 Euston Rd, Bloomsbury, London, NW1 2BU, UK., Department of Surgery, St. Mark's Hospital, Harrow, UK.