03/03/2017 13:23 GMT

Online Therapy Could Be The Answer To Getting Back Sex Life For Breast Cancer Survivors

Up to 77% of women are affected by sexual dysfunction.

Many survivors of breast cancer suffer with sexual dysfunction as a result of their illness, but a new study has shown that online therapy could provide an answer.

The report, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, claims that between 45 and 77% of women in remission are experiencing problems in the bedroom and with body image connected to their cancer.

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This broadly includes sexual functioning (physically and psychologically), relationship intimacy, marital discord, body image and menopausal symptoms.

In addition, treatment can lead to abrupt ovarian failure, vaginal atrophy and dryness, pain, and decreased sexual desire. Body image and feelings of sexual attractiveness and femininity can also be negatively affected.

Neil Aaronson, of the Netherlands Cancer Institute, told Reuters that these figures are two or three times higher than in the general female population.

In order to try and combat these issues, the team have been trialing an internet-based form of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) that is focused on changing behaviours. 

After randomly selecting 169 breast cancer survivors, who had self-reported issues in these areas, they were then split into two groups. 

One half of the group was signed up to the course for a total of 24 weeks, where they would receive weekly therapist-guided sessions via the web. While the other 50% of women were just added to the waiting list for the course. 

After completing only ten weeks of the course, the women were already saying they had noticed improvements in sexual desire and pleasure and less discomfort during intercourse.

Whereas the women in the control group did not register such improvements.

And by the time the treatment finished, although only 62% of the women in the intervention group successfully completed the course, they were reporting greater improvements in desire and overall sexual functioning.

Suggesting that this treatment could be used in future for all patients recovering from breast cancer. 

Although the improvements were notable, the study noted that no significant effects were observed for orgasmic function, or how regularly the women were having sex.