A pilot intervention to enhance psychosexual development in adolescents and young adults with cancer




Evidence suggests that cancer diagnosed during adolescence and young adulthood may present considerable challenges to what would otherwise be a relatively smooth developmental trajectory, particularly in areas related to reproductive health. We created and pilot tested a two-session, individually-delivered, counseling intervention to enhance psychosexual development in this unique population.


A total of 21 patients, aged 15 to 25 years and treated for cancer within the past 5 years, completed the counseling intervention. Patients were adaptively randomized to begin the intervention immediately, or to be placed on a 3-month waitlist, after which time, they were reassessed and began the intervention. The content of the intervention included education, dialog, and support regarding cancer and such issues as sexual development and function, body image, fertility, prevention of sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancy, and romantic relationships (e.g., dating, sexual communication). A 1-month follow-up booster call followed the intervention. Questionnaires were completed at baseline, post-waitlist (for half the sample), post-treatment, and at 3-month follow-up.


Participation in the intervention increased cancer-specific knowledge regarding sexual issues; improved body image; lessened anxiety about sexual and romantic relationships; and decreased overall level of psychological distress. Gains were maintained through the 3-month follow-up.


Addressing issues of reproductive health in the adolescent/young adult with cancer can and should be offered as a part of comprehensive pediatric cancer care. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2007;49:824–828. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.