Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics

, Volume 299, Issue 1, pp 191–201 | Cite as

Sexual activity and quality of life in patients after treatment for breast and ovarian cancer

  • Sebastian Mayer
  • Severine Iborra
  • Donata Grimm
  • Lisa Steinsiek
  • Sven Mahner
  • Michaela Bossart
  • Linn Woelber
  • Pit Jacob Voss
  • Gerald Gitsch
  • Annette HasenburgEmail author
Gynecologic Oncology



Sexual activity (SA) and functioning (SF) are important factors influencing quality of life (QoL). Anticancer treatment can cause or promote sexual dysfunctions. In this study we analyzed the SA, SF and QoL in patients after completion of treatment for breast cancer (BC) and ovarian cancer (OC).


In this retrospective multicenter study 396 BC patients and 93 OC patients aged between 18 and 70 years were surveyed at least 24 months after cancer diagnosis and compared to 60 healthy women. Data were collected through validated questionnaires (Sexual Activity Questionnaire, Female Sexual Function Index-d, EORTC Quality of Life Questionnaire-C30).


45.9% of BC patients and 56.5% of OC patients reported SA. SF and well-being of sexually active BC patients were not influenced by the type and radicality of surgery or the administration of chemotherapy. Patients who received antihormonal therapy at the time of evaluation showed a lower frequency of SA (p = 0.007), less satisfaction (p = 0.003) and more discomfort during SA (p = < 0.001) compared to healthy controls but no differences in experiencing orgasms, health status, QoL and global health status. In contrast, BC patients without antihormonal therapy showed only a higher discomfort score (p = 0.028) than healthy controls and estimated their health status and QoL significantly better than patients who received antihormonal therapy (p = 0006). In general, SA was associated with a better health status (p = 0.007), a better QoL (p = 0.004) and a better global health status (p = 0.004) in BC patients. Sexually active OC patients showed no significant differences in SF, QoL and health status compared to healthy controls.


Compared to healthy controls BC patients showed limitations in SF with a lower SA rate and more discomfort. Antihormonal therapy was an important factor influencing SF and well-being. Breast and OC survivors reported good physical and psychical health without differences in QoL and health status compared to controls. This might be explained by a change of perspective on life difficulties and altered priorities through a life threatening disease.


Quality of life Sexual activity Sexual function Breast cancer Ovarian cancer 


Author contributions

SM protocol/project development, data collection, data analysis, manuscript writing/editing. SI data collection, data analysis. DG data collection, manuscript editing. LS data collection. SM Protocol/project development, data collection. MB data collection, manuscript writing/editing. LW Protocol/project development, data collection, manuscript editing. PJV data collection. GG data collection. AH Protocol/project development, data collection, manuscript writing/editing

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no potential conlicts of interest.

Supplementary material

404_2018_4922_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (13 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 12 kb)
404_2018_4922_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (318 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 317 kb)
404_2018_4922_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (348 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 347 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastian Mayer
    • 1
  • Severine Iborra
    • 6
  • Donata Grimm
    • 3
  • Lisa Steinsiek
    • 3
  • Sven Mahner
    • 4
  • Michaela Bossart
    • 1
  • Linn Woelber
    • 3
  • Pit Jacob Voss
    • 2
  • Gerald Gitsch
    • 1
  • Annette Hasenburg
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyUniversity Medical Center FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of Oral and Maxillofacial SurgeryUniversity Medical Center FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  3. 3.Department of Gynecology and Gynecologic OncologyUniversity Medical Center Hamburg-EppendorfHamburgGermany
  4. 4.Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University HospitalLMU MunichMunichGermany
  5. 5.Department of Gynecology and ObstetricsUniversity Medical Center MainzMainzGermany
  6. 6.Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyUniversity Medical Center AachenAachenGermany

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