Psychosexual Functioning of Female Childhood Cancer Survivors: A Report From the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study

Academic Article


  • Introduction: There is a growing population of childhood cancer survivors at risk for adverse outcomes, including sexual dysfunction. Aim: To estimate the prevalence of and risk factors for sexual dysfunction among adult female survivors of childhood cancer and evaluate associations between dysfunction and psychological symptoms/quality of life (QOL). Methods: Female survivors (N = 936, mean 7.8 ± 5.6 years at diagnosis; 31 ± 7.8 years at evaluation) and noncancer controls (N = 122) participating in the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study completed clinical evaluations, Sexual Functioning Questionnaires (SFQ), and Medical Outcomes Survey Short Forms 36 (SF-36). Linear models compared SFQ scores between sexually active survivors (N = 712) and controls; survivors with scores <10th percentile of controls were classified with sexual dysfunction. Logistic regression evaluated associations between survivor characteristics and sexual dysfunction, and between sexual dysfunction and QOL. Outcomes: Sexual dysfunction was defined by scores <10th percentile of noncancer controls on the SFQ overall, as well as the domains of arousal, interest, orgasm, and physical problems, while QOL was measured by scores on the SF-36 with both physical and mental summary scales. Results: Sexual dysfunction was prevalent among 19.9% (95% CI 17.1, 23.1) of survivors. Those diagnosed with germ cell tumors (OR = 8.82, 95% CI 3.17, 24.50), renal tumors (OR = 4.49, 95% CI 1.89, 10.67), or leukemia (OR = 3.09, 95% CI 1.50, 6.38) were at greater risk compared to controls. Age at follow-up (45–54 vs 18–24 years; OR = 5.72, 95% CI 1.87, 17.49), pelvic surgery (OR = 2.03, 95% CI 1.18, 3.50), and depression (OR = 1.96, 95% CI 1.10, 3.51) were associated with sexual dysfunction. Hypogonadism receiving hormone replacement (vs nonmenopausal/nonhypogonadal; OR = 3.31, 95% CI 1.53, 7.15) represented an additional risk factor in the physical problems (eg, vaginal pain and dryness) subscale. Survivors with sexual dysfunction, compared to those without sexual dysfunction, were more likely to score <40 on the physical (21.1% vs 12.7%, P = .01) and mental health (36.5% vs 18.2%, P < .01) summary scales of the SF-36. Only 2.9% of survivors with sexual dysfunction reported receiving intervention. Clinical Implications: Health care providers should be aware of the increased risk of sexual dysfunction in this growing population, inquire about symptomology, and refer for appropriate intervention. Strengths & Limitations: Strengths of this study include the use of a validated tool for evaluating sexual function in a large population of clinically assessed female childhood cancer survivors. Limitations include potential for selection bias, and lack of clinically confirmed dysfunction. Conclusion: Sexual dysfunction is prevalent among female childhood cancer survivors and few survivors receive intervention; further research is needed to determine if those with sexual dysfunction would benefit from targeted interventions. Bjornard KL, Howell CR, Klosky JL, et al. Psychosexual Functioning of Female Childhood Cancer Survivors: A Report From the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study. J Sex Med 2020;17:1981–1994.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Bjornard KL; Howell CR; Klosky JL; Chemaitilly W; Srivastava DK; Brinkman TM; Green DM; Willard VW; Jacola LM; Krasin MJ
  • Start Page

  • 1981
  • End Page

  • 1994
  • Volume

  • 17
  • Issue

  • 10