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Subject of sexuality with cancer patients often off limits

A new abstract reports that nurses and other health care providers are ill-equipped to handle discussions about the physical and psychological sexual side effects that come to patients with cancer.

Presented by nurses from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the abstract finds that while nurses play a key role in responding to cancer patients’ concerns, the subject of sexuality is all too often kept quiet in hospitals.

Citing lack of knowledge and confidence to bring up subjects of sexuality with patients as driving forces behind the lack of discussion, the abstract suggests that educating nurses on the subject is the best solution. A group at MD Anderson already has begun creating educational materials and classes for nurses, and the report suggests that sexuality training for nurses should begin in nursing school and continue throughout nurses’ careers.

Have you seen uncomfortable moments regarding the sexuality of cancer patients in your workplace?



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3 Responses to Subject of sexuality with cancer patients often off limits

  1. Pamela

    Education is definitely needed! If sexuality was treated and discussed just as you would any disease, it is not difficult to do! As an RN, as well as the wife of a prostate cancer survivor, I can tell you firsthand that no one, not even the treating physicians, tell patients the truth or give them any idea of how to handle what is to come. These men are psychologically devastated by the cancer, physically mutilated by radiation or surgery, and oftentimes, humiliated by office personnel who think they want their Viagra “for a good time!”. Most people have no idea that these drugs, for prostate cancer pts, are used as a rehabilitation treatment and do not cause these guys to have an erection! Or, the penile injections, pump and other supplies they may need to do that keep the tissue healthy until nerves can reawaken (takes 2-4 yrs, if they do).
    How about the final blow to their psych? A surgical procedure for a penile implant! Or injections to suppress testosterone to zero levels and sink these guys into depths of despair and female menopause and growing breasts? How’s all that for how cancer affects sexuality for a man with prostate cancer? And then to be told by these same people, “At least you’re alive”. Some of these guys wish they weren’t, not because they can’t have sex, but because the treatments usually rob them of their perceived “good quality of life”.
    Yes, education is needed for nurses, doctors, pharmacy personnel, office receptionists, and anyone else that has ever made a joke about a man using Viagra.

  2. Machell Testerman RN

    I love your site, it was very informative, but my favorite was the humor section and the charting bloopers. I worked with a Chinese md who charted ” pt. is blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other” . He is also one of those mds who have charted “physical was done on the floor”. I will be passing this web site on to my nurse friends.

    • Scrubs Editor Scrubs Blogger

      Thank you so much, Machell! That’s too funny!