Prevalence and risk factors for sexual dysfunction in young women following a cancer diagnosis–a population-based study

Lena Wettergren, Lars E. Eriksson, Charlotta Bergström, Christel Hedman, Johan Ahlgren, Karin E. Smedby, Kristina Hellman, Roger Henriksson, Claudia Lampic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Self-reported sex problems among women diagnosed with reproductive and nonreproductive cancers before the age of 40 are not fully understood. This study aimed to determine sexual dysfunction in young women following a cancer diagnosis in relation to women of the general population. Furthermore, to identify factors associated with sexual dysfunction in women diagnosed with cancer. Materials and Methods: A population-based cross-sectional study with 694 young women was conducted 1.5 years after being diagnosed with cancer (response rate 72%). Potential participants were identified in national quality registries covering breast and gynecological cancer, lymphoma and brain tumors. The women with cancer were compared to a group of women drawn from the general population (N = 493). Sexual activity and function were assessed with the PROMIS® SexFS. Logistic regression was used to assess differences between women with cancer and the comparison group, and to identify factors associated with sexual dysfunction. Results: The majority of the women with cancer (83%) as well as the women from the comparison group (87%) reported having had sex the last month (partner sex and/or masturbation). More than 60% of the women with cancer (all diagnoses) reported sexual dysfunction in at least one of the measured domains. The women with cancer reported statistically significantly more problems than women of the comparison group across domains such as decreased interest in having sex, and vaginal and vulvar discomfort. Women with gynecological or breast cancer and those receiving more intense treatment were at particular high risk of sexual dysfunction (≥2 domains). Concurrent emotional distress and body image disturbance were associated with more dysfunction. Conclusion: The results underscore the need to routinely assess sexual health in clinical care and follow-up. Based on the results, development of interventions to support women to cope with cancer-related sexual dysfunction is recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1165-1172
Number of pages8
JournalActa Oncologica
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Cancer and Oncology
  • Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine

Free keywords

  • Neoplasms
  • population based
  • sexual dysfunction
  • women
  • young adults


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