Prostate cancer (PCa) and its treatments can have a significant negative impact on the sexual health of survivors and couples, but few studies have specifically examined the impact of PCa-related sexual dysfunction on female partners of survivors.
Our objective was to perform a qualitative study to comprehensively characterize female partners' perceptions of the implications of PCa on their sex lives, as well as partners' sexual health concerns and unmet needs.
We conducted semi-structured telephone interviews about sexual health and unmet needs with female partners of PCa survivors recruited from multiple clinical locations and support groups for PCa caregivers from September 2021 to March 2022. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and independently coded. Participants were recruited until thematic saturation was achieved.
Outcomes of this study were female partner sexual health concerns and unmet needs.
Among 12 participants, the median age was 65 (range 53 to 81) years, 9 were White, the median time since their partner's PCa diagnosis was 2.25 years (range 11 months to 20 years), and a majority reported that their partner had undergone radical prostatectomy, radiation, and/or hormonal therapy. Major emergent themes pertained to the significant impact of age- and PCa-related sexual dysfunction on female sexual quality of life, the dyadic nature of sexual dysfunction and recovery, the role of the partner in coping with and adjusting to sexual dysfunction, difficulties communicating about sexual dysfunction in an intimate relationship, a lack of physician-led sexual health counseling and support, and the benefit of peer interactions and proactive information seeking in addressing unmet sexual health needs.
Future efforts should continue to explore the impact of PCa on partner sexual health and address unmet needs through sexual health education and support.
In this study, we identified female partners' sexual health concerns both related to and independent of PCa survivor sexual health. Limitations include exclusion of male partners of survivors and potential responder bias, as partners who agreed to participate may have experienced more sexual health concerns.
We found that female partners experience PCa-related sexual dysfunction as a couple's disease, grief due to age- and PCa-related sexual losses, and a lack of physician-led sexual health counseling and information. Our results highlight the importance of including partners of PCa survivors in the sexual recovery process and of developing sexual care programs to address partners' unmet sexual health needs.
The journal of sexual medicine. 2023 Mar 20 [Epub ahead of print]
Natasha Gupta, Laura Zebib, Daniela Wittmann, Christian J Nelson, Carolyn A Salter, John P Mulhall, Nataliya Byrne, Tatiana Sanchez Nolasco, Stacy Loeb
Department of Urology, New York University, New York, NY 10016, United States., Department of Urology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, United States., Department of Psychiatry, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY 10065, United States., Department of Urology, Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, WA 98431, United States., Department of Urology, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY 10065, United States.