Patient-Reported Barriers and Facilitators to Seeking and Accessing Support in Gynecologic and Breast Cancer Survivors With Sexual Problems: A Systematic Review of Qualitative and Quantitative Studies

Yunyun Dai, Olivia Y. Cook, Ladan Yeganeh, Chongmei Huang, Jinfeng Ding, Claire E. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Greater understanding of patient-reported barriers and facilitators to seeking and accessing sexual health services will help formulate strategies to assist gynecologic and breast cancer patients to overcome obstacles to accessing sexual health support because they typically do not seek sexual education and/or treatment when confronted with sexual concerns. Aim: The objectives of this systematic review were to (i) explore the patient-reported barriers to seeking and accessing support for sexual problems in gynecologic and breast cancer survivors, and (ii) identify strategies used to successfully overcome the barriers to accessing sexual health information and/or treatment. Main Outcome Measures: The main outcome measures included factors that prevent and/or facilitate gynecologic and breast cancer patients with sexual concerns seeking and accessing sexual health-related services. Methods: Systematic searches of major electronic databases (Ovid MEDLINE, PsycINFO, CINAHL, ProQuest, and Chinese database CNKI) from January 2009 to July 2019 were used to identify the barriers and facilitators to seeking sexual education/treatment from the perspective of gynecologic and breast cancer survivors. A narrative synthesis was conducted. Results: 20 studies met the inclusion criteria including 12 qualitative, 6 quantitative, and 2 mixed methods studies. 4 interconnected themes were derived from 13 subthemes relating to the barriers/facilitators to seeking and accessing sexual health support. The most common barriers were embarrassment/discomfort in discussing sexual concerns, perceived discomfort of healthcare providers in discussing sexual issues, limitations of the healthcare system to address sexual problems, and the multidimensional nature of sexuality. Help-seeking for sexual health concerns was facilitated by: (i) oncology health professionals initiating and conducting open, honest discussions around sexual concerns with patients; (ii) the availability of information in multiple forms; and (iii) appropriate timing of information provision according to women's preferences. Clinical Implications: Oncology health professionals need to develop an open, honest, accepting communication style and be accessible to women with cancer and their partners within healthcare systems. Strengths & Limitations: The systematic review was conducted in accordance with guidelines. Variability in the primary aims and outcomes of the included studies precluded a meta-analysis. Conclusions: Training programs for providers of oncology care should enhance their knowledge of sexual issues in gynecologic and/or breast cancer, enhance their communication skills with patients, and improve their ability to consult or refer patients to psycho-oncologists or other mental health professionals. Dai Y, Cook OY, Yeganeh L, et al. Patient-Reported Barriers and Facilitators to Seeking and Accessing Support in Gynecologic and Breast Cancer Survivors With Sexual Problems: A Systematic Review of Qualitative and Quantitative Studies. J Sex Med 2020;17:1326–1358.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1326-1358
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Sexual Medicine
Volume17
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

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