Patient interest in the Lowdown on Down There: attendance at a vulvovaginal and sexual health workshop post-cancer treatment

Abstract

Purpose

Sexual difficulties and vulvovaginal changes are common for women undergoing, and following, cancer treatments. These changes have significant impacts on quality of life and significant relationships. The current study aimed to (1) evaluate women’s interest and attendance in a group-based educational workshop to address changes in vulvovaginal health and sexuality after cancer, and (2) describe participant characteristics and presenting concerns.

Methods

Two hundred eighteen women with a history of cancer expressed interest in receiving information about the workshop and completed phone screening. Interested women (n = 156) completed an online questionnaire package examining vulvovaginal health and sexual function prior to attending the workshop.

Results

Approximately 75% of the women who completed screening attended the workshop. Clinically significant sexual distress was reported by 91% of participants, and 97% of sexually active participants exceeded the threshold for sexual dysfunction (per FSFI). Women within 1–2 years of diagnosis tended to report less sexual distress, less severe vulvovaginal symptoms, and less impact from these symptoms compared to women farther out from diagnosis. While the majority of women reported vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse, only a minority reported engaging in health promotion strategies sufficient to expect symptom improvement.

Conclusions

The current study suggests that group-based educational workshops for vulvovaginal and sexual concerns are utilized by patients and should be offered to women well into disease survivorship. Workshops targeting vulvovaginal symptoms and sexual concerns may be a cost-effective method of reducing sexual distress and improving patients’ sexual function and quality of life.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Date recorded as diagnosis was either the initial diagnosis date, or the most recent date of recurrence for those who had recurred.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to highlight the important contributions of the members of the OASIS program team. The provincial nature of the team is fundamental to achieving our program goals and offering a comprehensive clinical program. The individual efforts of each of the team members are vital. We would specifically like to thank Reanne Booker, Andrea Beck, Sara Beattie, Amy Driga, and Anisha Abdulla for being the workshop facilitators in addition to authors L.W. and R.M.

Funding

Funding for this project was provided by grants from the Calgary Foundation (26994) and the Alberta Cancer Foundation (26613).

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Correspondence to Lauren M. Walker.

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Dr. Lauren Walker has full control of all primary data. Data will not be made available in a data repository.

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Millman, R., Jacox, N., Sears, C. et al. Patient interest in the Lowdown on Down There: attendance at a vulvovaginal and sexual health workshop post-cancer treatment. Support Care Cancer 28, 3889–3896 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-019-05162-9

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Keywords

  • Female sexual health
  • Survivorship
  • Sexual function
  • Cancer