Sexual activity after treatment for head and neck cancer: the experience of survivors
evidence and practice    

Sexual activity after treatment for head and neck cancer: the experience of survivors

Bethany Andrews Rhoten Assistant professor, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, Nashville, Tennessee, US
Jessie Sellers PhD student, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, Nashville, Tennessee, US
Elizabeth Charron Research assistant, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, Nashville, Tennessee, US
Natalie Paul Research assistant, Vanderbilt University School

Aim People with head and neck cancer (HNC) are at risk of dissatisfaction with sexual activity due to the highly disfiguring nature of treatment and associated physical dysfunction. Facial nerve damage, impaired saliva production and difficulty turning the neck are some of the impediments survivors experience. As sexual activity is an important quality of life issue it is critical that these issues are addressed. The aim of this pilot study is to describe the effect of HNC and its treatment on survivors’ experience of sexual activity.

Method People aged 21 years or older with a history of HNC were recruited to participate in a one-on-one semi-structured interview. The resulting 11 interviews were examined through thematic analysis.

Findings Participants’ ages ranged from 33 to 70 years with an average of 55 years, and were mostly male, white and married. All participants indicated that their sexual activity was negatively affected by HNC and its treatment. Themes included desire for, frequency of, barriers to and facilitators of sexual activity.

Conclusion It is critical that healthcare providers meet the informational needs of this population to address sexuality as part of holistic survivorship after care.

Cancer Nursing Practice. doi: 10.7748/cnp.2019.e1461

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated software

Correspondence

bethany.rhoten@vanderbilt.edu

Conflict of interest

None declared

Rhoten B, Sellers J, Charron E et al (2019) Sexual activity after treatment for head and neck cancer: the experience of survivors. Cancer Nursing Practice. doi: 10.7748/cnp.2019.e1461

Published online: 18 March 2019

You need a subscription to read the full article