ORIGINAL RESEARCH–COUPLES' SEXUAL DYSFUNCTIONS: Needs Assessment Survey to Justify Establishing a Reproductive Health Clinic at a Comprehensive Cancer Center


Leslie R. Schover, PhD, Department of Behavioral Science, Unit 1330, UT M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, PO Box 301439, Houston, TX 77230-1439, USA. Tel: 713-745-2681; Fax: 713-745-4286; E-mail: lschover@mdanderson.org


Introduction.  Reproductive health problems, including sexual dysfunction and impaired fertility, are distressing and persistent after cancer treatment. However, recent reports suggest that reproductive health remains neglected in oncology settings.

Aims.  We conducted a survey to ascertain the prevalence of reproductive health problems in men and women treated in a comprehensive cancer center, and to estimate potential usage of clinical services to preserve fertility or to treat postcancer infertility and sexual dysfunction.

Methods.  We mailed 800 questionnaires to men and women treated for cancer at our institution 1 to 5 years previously. Cancer sites and ages were chosen to maximize the risk of reproductive problems. We stratified the sample by living distance from our institution, to see if travel affected service utlilization. To provide a self-selected sample for comparison, another 200 questionnaires were made available in outpatient areas.

Main Outcome Measures.  Self-report questionnaire.

Results.  The return rate for the combined surveys was 29% for men and 26% for women. Cancer sites for self-selected respondents were almost identical to those in the postal cohort. Prevalence and types of sexual dysfunction were typical for surveys of cancer survivors, with 49% of men reporting new erection problems after cancer treatment and 45% of women noting loss of desire for sex and vaginal dryness. About a third of patients aged less than 50 years would have liked a fertility consultation before cancer treatment. Twenty to thirty percent wanted more information about premature ovarian failure or health risks for their children. Twenty-four percent of men and 21% of women would definitely want to visit a reproductive health clinic in the next year. Factors associated with wanting an appointment included self-selection to complete the survey and, for men, having less education.

Conclusion.  It should be feasible to establish a multidisciplinary reproductive health center in a comprehensive cancer center. Huyghe E, Sui D, Odensky E, and Schover LR. Needs assessment survey to justify establishing a reproductive health clinic at a comprehensive cancer center. J Sex Med 2009;6:149–163.