Sexual function in male lymphoma survivors in relationship to age, gonadal hormones and psychosocial issues, and compared to matched controls

Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN
Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: June 8, 2009

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Title: Sexual function in male lymphoma survivors in relationship to age, gonadal hormones and psychosocial issues, and compared to matched controls
Reviewer: Christine Hill-Kayser, MD
Presenter: Cecilie E. Kiserud
Affilation: The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo, Norway

Sexual function is a common concern of cancer survivors. This study looked to evaluate the sexual function in male lymphoma survivors. Participants completed a one time survey addressing sexual function (BSFI scale), socioeconomic factors, mental distress, fatigue and physical/mental health and had hormone levels checked (testosterone, LH, FSH, SHBG). 246 Hodgkin's and Non-Hodgkin's cancer survivors were compared to 492 controls. Average age was 47.4 years and 14.8 years since their cancer diagnosis. 79% reported being in a committed relationship.

Average BSFI scores in categories of erection, ejaculation, and sexual satisfaction were significantly higher in the control population than the survivor population (p < 0.02). Average scores for sexual drive did not differ between controls and survivors. Average BSFI scores were significantly higher for younger lymphoma survivors, with improved sexual function being statistically significant in comparisons of 21-39 year olds, 40-49 year olds, 50-59 year olds, and 60-69 year olds.

Survivors with low testosterone and elevated LH levels had lower mean BSFI scores than those with normal gonadal hormones (p < 0.001).

The authors conclude that long-term male lymphoma survivors have reduced sexual function when compared to normative controls.

They note that factors associated with reduced sexual function in male lymphoma survivors include older age, increased mental distress, lower self-reported physical health, and abnormal gonadal hormone levels (low testosterone and/or elevated LH).

Sexual side effects remain an under-discussed issue for cancer survivors. Hopefully this report will bring attention to the need for discussion of sexual function issues with survivors of all cancers.

Also see Interpreting a Cancer Research Study