06/02/2017 14:09 GMT

Childhood Cancer Treatments Could Be Affecting Survivors' Sex Lives In Adulthood

'These issues are understudied.'

People who survived childhood cancer could suffer repercussions on their sex lives in adulthood, according to research.

A recent analysis showed that adult survivors of childhood cancer did not differ from their peers in terms of their sex life satisfaction, however they were more likely to have fewer partners.

Those who received cancer treatments that were especially toxic to the nervous system were less likely to have sex, be in a relationship or have children in adulthood.

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Cancer treatment during childhood can be detrimental to the developing brain and can cause lasting neurocognitive impairments, which can lead to difficulties in social interactions later down the line.

As a result of this, childhood cancer survivors may also face difficulties when trying to initiate sexual and romantic relationships in adulthood.

“Psychosexual development entails reaching certain milestones, such as sexual debut, entering committed relationships, or having children,” said Vicky Lehmann, of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University, in Columbus.

“It is a normative part of becoming an adolescent or young adult, but only comparing such milestones without taking satisfaction into account falls short. These issues are understudied among survivors of childhood cancer.”

Dr Lehmann and a team of researchers asked 144 young adult survivors of childhood cancer and 144 adults who’ve not had cancer to complete questionnaires about sexual development, sexual satisfaction and satisfaction with their relationship status.

The researchers also used information from medical charts to rate the neurotoxicity of the treatment they received during their childhood.

Adults who had survived childhood cancer were likely to have fewer lifetime partners. 

Survivors of brain tumours and any survivor who received high-dose neurotoxic treatments reported the lowest rates of achieving milestones of psychosexual development.

Dr Lehmann noted that although survivors who received high-dose neurotoxic treatments were less likely to reach certain milestones of psychosexual development, they were not necessarily less satisfied than others.

“This highlights the subjective nature of psychosexual issues, and the importance of addressing any concerns in survivorship care,” she said.

The investigators have proposed a comprehensive and novel rating system for the neurotoxicity of childhood cancer treatment to detect those who are potentially at higher risk for impaired psychosexual outcomes.

“This rating might be used as a checklist in clinical practice,” said Dr Lehmann.

The findings were published in a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society called Cancer.