Sexuality in patients treated for hematologic malignancies - Problems and need for support from patients’ and nurses’ perspectives

University dissertation from Karlstad : Karlstads universitet

Abstract: Aim: The overall aim of this thesis was to describe and explore how sexuality, body image and HRQoL were affected in patients treated for hematologic malignancies, and their need for support. A further aim was to describe nurses’ conceptions of dialogues about sexuality.Methods: Ten nurses in cancer care (I) and twelve patients were interviewed (II). Data were analysed according to phenomenography (I-II). Data were also collected from patients (?45 years) included consecutively: at baseline (n=32), one month (n=25; III-IV) and six months (n=20; IV) after treatment. Three instruments were used: SAQ-S, BIS and EORTC QLQ-C30. The data were analysed statistically.Main findings: The nurses (I) conceived that they should talk about sexuality with cancer patients, but usually did not due to their own attitudes, lack of knowledge about sexuality, communication skills and environmental conditions. The patients (II) experienced negative effects on sexual function and sexual relationship due to affected strength and sexual desire. The patients’ sexuality, body image and HRQoL were affected during (II-III) and one month after treatment (III-IV). Patients recovered with regard to these issues within six months, except for sexual relationship (IV). However, when the disease and side effects were experienced as severe, thoughts about and interest in sexuality were overshadowed, and the need or wish for support related to this issue was low (II). Sexuality and body image seemed to influence changes in HRQoL (IV).Conclusion: Patients above the age of 45 treated for hematologic malignancies with chemoimmunotherapy experienced problems related to sexuality, body image and HRQoL. However, as sexuality was found to be of low priority due to concerns for life when the disease and side effects were severe, support must be timely and individualized. Patient-centered care, with patients continuously meeting a nurse guided by the idea of holistic individual nursing care throughout the care trajectory, is suggested.