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Sexuality in Irish Women With Gynecologic Cancer

Vicki Cleary

Josephine Hegarty

Geraldine McCarthy

sexual health, gynecologic cancer, gynecologic malignancies
ONF 2011, 38(2), E87-E96. DOI: 10.1188/11.ONF.E87-E96

Purpose/Objectives: To investigate sexual self-concept, sexual relationships, and sexual functioning, and the relationship between these and certain demographic variables of Irish women, following a diagnosis of gynecologic cancer.

Design: Descriptive, correlational.

Setting: Outpatient gynecologic oncology clinic in a large university hospital in Southern Ireland.

Sample: 106 women with a diagnosis of and treatment for various gynecologic cancers (cervical, ovarian, endometrial, and vulvar).

Methods: The Body Image Scale, Sexual Esteem Scale, and Sexual Self-Schema Scale were administered to women a minimum of six weeks postdiagnosis of any form of gynecologic cancer to measure sexual self-concept; the Intimate Relationships Scale to measure sexual relationships; and the Arizona Sexual Experiences Scale to measure sexual functioning.

Main Research Variables: Sexual self-concept, body image, sexual esteem, sexual self-schema, sexual relationships, and sexual functioning.

Findings: Participants reported negative changes in relation to their sexual self-concept, sexual relationships, and sexual functioning. Participants reported negative changes in relation to all stages of the sexual response cycle.

Conclusions: Gynecologic cancer has the potential to negatively affect a woman's sexual self-concept, sexual relationships, and sexual functioning. Sexuality is a multidimensional construct and must be measured in this way.

Implications for Nursing: Healthcare professionals must use a holistic approach when providing information and support to patients with gynecologic cancer. Information must be provided to women on how cancer and its treatment has the potential to affect their sexual self-concept, sexual relationships, and sexual functioning, including information on how to overcome these alterations.

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