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Keywords:

  • cervical carcinoma;
  • sexual function;
  • female sexual dysfunction;
  • vaginal changes;
  • radical hysterectomy;
  • late effects;
  • questionnaire

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Limited knowledge exists concerning the impact of radical hysterectomy (RH) alone on the sexual function of patients with early-stage cervical carcinoma. The authors investigated the longitudinal course of self-reported sexual function after RH.

METHODS

The current study was comprised of 173 patients with lymph node-negative, early-stage cervical carcinoma who had undergone RH and pelvic lymphadenectomy. They were assessed prospectively using a validated self-assessment questionnaire 5 weeks and 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, and 24 months after RH. Results were compared with an age-matched control group from the general population.

RESULTS

Compared with control women, patients experienced severe orgasmic problems and uncomfortable sexual intercourse due to a reduced vaginal size during the first 6 months after RH, severe dyspareunia during the first 3 months, and sexual dissatisfaction during the 5 weeks after RH. A persistent lack of sexual interest and lubrication were reported throughout the first 2 years after RH. Long-term lack of sexual interest and insufficient vaginal lubrication were confirmed by the patient's self-reported changes 12 months after RH compared with before the cancer diagnosis and by a pre-post comparison within patients. However, most of the patients who were sexually active before their cancer diagnosis were sexually active again 12 months after surgery (91%), although with a decrease in sexual frequency reported.

CONCLUSIONS

RH had a persistent and negative impact on patients' sexual interest and vaginal lubrication whereas the majority of other sexual and vaginal problems disappeared over time. Sexual and vaginal problems in the short-term and long-term after RH should be discussed with the patient before and after surgery. Cancer 2004;100:97–106. © 2003 American Cancer Society.