Sexual Function After Surgical and Radiation Therapy for Cervical Carcinoma



ABSTRACTOne hundred women treated for carcinoma of the cervix were interviewed more than one year later to establish the effects of radiation or surgical therapy on sexual function. Forty-three had received irradiation, 44 nonradical surgery, six combined surgery and irradiation, and seven radical surgery. The irradiation and nonradical surgery groups were each further subdivided into subgroups of patients aged 30 to 49 for age-controlled comparison. Patients in the irradiation group had statistically significant decreases in sexual enjoyment, ability to attain orgasm, coital opportunity, frequency of intercourse, and coital desire. The group who had nonradical surgical procedures had no significant change in sexual function after treatment. Similar results were found in both age-controlled subgroups, eliminating age as a major etiologic factor. Marked vaginal alterations were recorded in the majority of irradiated patients, but were not present among the groups treated with nonradical surgery. The vaginal changes alone could not be held accountable for the significant decrease in sexual function among women who received pelvic irradiation. The origin of decreased sexual desire after radiation therapy is complex, and not yet completely understood. We propose therapeutic programs to help women deal with the emotional and physical consequences of pelvic irradiation.

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