Friday 7th September 2012
Darja Brandenburg, Macmillan Clinical Psychologist, on sexuality and cancer.
Sexual issues are among the most common and long-lasting side effects of cancer and its treatment. They will affect between 35 and 50%
of people living with cancer, with significantly higher figures reported for certain cancer types and treatments.
It’s frustrating, but perhaps not surprising that this aspect of care has remained one of the most neglected. Even as survivorship needs for people with cancer are being recognised – including work on the late effects of cancer treatments – commissioners and cancer managers have been reluctant to commit funding to what many may still perceive to be a dispensable luxury.
Much of the work today is carried out by a relatively small group of enthusiastic clinicians, often working in isolation. There are a few notable exceptions, with exciting new service developments happening at The Christie, the Royal Marsden and Harrogate hospital, as well as some partnerships with Relate. But at the same time, some longer-existing services are losing support and funding as trusts battle with severe cost saving targets.
The good news is that the vast majority of patients don’t require access to specialist services to help address their sexual concerns. It has long been established that even brief supportive conversations and giving simple recommendations can go a long way towards alleviating distress for most patients and their partners.
You can read more about these issues and how you may be able to support people affected by cancer in this way in this issue of Mac Voice. Macmillan also has a sexual relationships toolkit for professionals. You can access it at Learn Zone.
Macmillan Clinical Psychologist
1. Gianotten W. Mechanisms of Sexual Morbidity. Conference paper. 2008. ISSC Conference, Glasgow.
Darja Brandenburg, Macmillan Clinical Psychologist, Cancer Service, Good Hope Hospital, Clinical Psychologist for HIV, Dept of Sexual Health and HIV Medicine, Heartlands Hospital.
We have more information about sexuality and cancer.