Breaking the Silence on Cancer and Sexuality
Reviewed By: Carolyn Vachani, MSN, RN, AOCN
Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: August 23, 2007
The sexuality concerns of people with cancer often take a back burner to the primary treatment. There are many reasons for this, including beliefs, attitudes and a lack of knowledge on the part of the health profession, patient or partner, none of which are valid reasons to ignore the topic. Healthcare professionals involved in the care of oncology patients have a responsibility to address the sexuality needs of their patients and educate themselves to be able to do so. This has not been easy, the topic is hardly discussed in nursing school, rarely the subject of a seminar, and few helpful resources were available. That is, until now.
Dr. Anne Katz is registered nurse who maintains a clinical practice in sexuality counseling. She has taken her expertise and developed a practical guide for nurses to utilize in practice. The book starts with an introduction to normal sexual function, an important component to educating a patient. Dr. Katz also addresses communication about this often taboo topic, gives tips on taking a sexual history and the models to guide this assessment.
The second section of the book is broken down into common cancers, details the sexual concerns of those populations and, most importantly, discusses interventions for these concerns. The use of disease specific chapters allows the book to be used as a resource in the clinical setting. For instance, your patient with breast cancer asks about vaginal dryness? Turn to chapter 4 and review the causes and recommended interventions for this population, and voila!
Section three addresses specific issues and recommendations for certain populations, including adolescents, older folks, terminally ill patients and gay or lesbian patients. The whole book is peppered with case studies (the solutions are at the end of the book!) to practice the application of your new found knowledge. These would be great to use for a nursing discussion group series.
The last section is dedicated to resources for healthcare providers, including websites, books, and journals. The appendix includes detailed information on "sensate focus" exercises for couples to decrease anxiety and increase communication and closeness. This book would make a wonderful addition to any oncology nurse's library or unit resource shelf. My one concern is that the cost of this book may prohibit some from being able to purchase it.