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Keywords:

  • Cancer;
  • head and neck neoplasms;
  • laryngeal neoplasms;
  • sexuality;
  • quality of life;
  • tracheotomy;
  • laryngectomy

Abstract

Objectives: To investigate sexual problems that can occur after laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancer surgery and to specify possible influencing factors.

Study Design: Multi-institutional cross-sectional study.

Methods: Two hundred six patients were interviewed in person using the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer, Quality of Life Questionnaire, Head and Neck Module (EORTC QLQ-H&N35), the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and a structured interview assessing alcohol and tobacco consumption, sociodemographic data, and specific sexual problems. Type of surgery, tumor site, and tumor stage were documented according to the participants' medical records. Multivariate analysis of variance was used to assess the independent impact of each factor.

Results: More than half of the patients in our study reported having reduced libido and sexual enjoyment after treatment. Sixty percent considered it an important issue for their contentment with life. Sexual difficulties were found to be unrelated with gender, formal education, alcohol and tobacco consumption, type of surgery (partial vs. total laryngectomy), radiotherapy, and tumor site. Psychological distress (F = 46.27, P < .001) was seen to have a strong independent impact on the occurrence of sexual difficulties and stage of disease (F = 4.50, P < .05) and age (F = 4.79, P < .05), a moderate independent impact.

Conclusions: Reduced libido and sexual enjoyment is a common problem after laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancer surgery. However, it is not caused by the oncological treatment but rather by the cancer itself. Depression is often associated with sexual problems. Both should be discussed in medical consultations with head and neck cancer patients when appropriate to provide adequate treatment.