Breast-Specific Sensuality and Sexual Function in Cancer Survivorship: Does Surgical Modality Matter?

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Publication Title

Annals of Surgical Oncology


Purpose: More early-staged breast cancer patients are choosing mastectomy. No studies have addressed breast-specific sensuality (BSS), defined as the breast's role during intimacy. We explored BSS among women undergoing lumpectomy (L), mastectomy alone (M), or with reconstruction (MR) and analyzed the association of surgical modality with sexual function.

Methods: Women undergoing breast cancer surgery between 2000 and 2013 were eligible for survey using investigator-generated questions and the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI). Demographic and surgical data were collected by chart review. The Kruskal-Wallis test was used to analyze FSFI scores, and χ 2 or Fisher's exact tests were used for categorical data.

Results: Of 453 invited participants, 268 (59%) completed the survey. Of these, 69.4, 22.4, and 8.2% underwent L, MR, or M, respectively. The importance of the breast/chest wall during intimacy declined significantly regardless of surgical modality (L 83-74%, p = 0.0006; M 95-47%, p = 0.003; MR 93-77%, p = 0.002). No difference in sexual function was found between L, MR, and M (median FSFI score 28.2, 27.5, 25.9, respectively; p = 1.0). Comparing L versus MR, higher FSFI scores resulted with appearance satisfaction (29.0 vs. 22.6 p = 0.002) and preserved BSS as pleasurable breast caress (28.8 vs. 26.5, p = 0.04) and the breast as part of intimacy (28.8 vs. 24.8, p = 0.1).

Conclusions: Breast cancer surgery is associated with lowered BSS. However, BSS and appearance satisfaction scores are better for L and appear to correlate with improved sexual function postoperatively. These data may guide surgical counseling and contribute to survivorship outcomes.

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Publication Date

Fall 10-2017