Navigating Sexuality and Romantic Relationships Among Adolescent and Young Cancer Survivors

Navigating Sexuality and Romantic Relationships Among Adolescent and Young Cancer Survivors
A cancer diagnosis at a young age can create a series of unique challenges to one's sexuality and romantic relationships. Adolescent and young cancer survivors might be commencing a serious romantic relationship or considering the creation of a family of their own amidst a serious disease.[1]   
When examining sexuality in AYAs, research indicates that it can be influenced by: 
  • the experiences of dealing with cancer,  
  • including undergoing treatments,  
  • coping with the fear of relapse and  
  • facing the potential risks of infertility.[3]  
There is additionally a decrease in post-cancer sexuality across a spectrum of different cancer types, affecting both patients and their partners.[1] Compared to the general population, the motivation and ability for sexual activity among cancer patients can be influenced by medications prescribed for nausea which can have side effects such as  changes in sexual organs, alterations in body image, as well as differences in the sexual response of the partner.[3] The ways in which the partner of the cancer patient reacts sexually to these changes can potentially influence motivation and ability for sexual activity. [3] 
Romantic relationships  
In a recent systematic review that explored the effects of cancer on romantic relationships among young adults, it was revealed that these individuals encounter challenges related to disclosing and discussing their cancer history with potential partners.[4] The same study's authors proposed that young adults with a history of cancer often experience a delay in the initiation of their first romantic relationship.[4] Moreover, in comparison to their peers, they have a reduced likelihood of getting married and engage in fewer romantic relationships.[4] Romantic relationships in these individuals showed an association with both positive aspects – for instance enhanced physical and emotional function – and negative ones such as the rise of new conflicts.[5]   
There is, indisputably a need for additional support regarding sexuality/romantic relationships in the lives of young cancer survivors. AYAs specific support care needs should be addressed during their cancer journey. Finally, according to AYAs reports, maintaining positive and satisfying romantic relationships can have a positive impact on the psychological well-being and recovery of young cancer survivors. [1] 
Author: Zoi Asimakopoulou 
[1]. Geue, K., Schmidt, R., Sender, A., Sauter, S., & Friedrich, M. (2015). Sexuality and romantic relationships in young adult cancer survivors: satisfaction and supportive care needs. Psycho-oncology, 24(11), 1368–1376. .  
[2]. Sexual Health, WHO. Retrieved from .  
[3]. Fosså, S. D., & Dahl, A. A. (2008). Fertility and sexuality in young cancer survivors who have adult-onset malignancies. Hematology/oncology clinics of North America, 22(2), 291–vii. .  
[4]. Rabin C. (2019). Impact of Cancer on Romantic Relationships Among Young Adults: A Systematic Review. Journal of clinical psychology in medical settings, 26(1), 1–12. .  
[5]. Carpentier, M. Y., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2010). Romantic and sexual relationships, body image, and fertility in adolescent and young adult testicular cancer survivors: a review of the literature. The Journal of adolescent health: official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, 47(2), 115–125. .  

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