Psychosexual development undisturbed in survivors of childhood cancers

20 Sep 2022
Psychosexual development undisturbed in survivors of childhood cancers

Most survivors of childhood cancers show normal psychosexual development, except for minor delays in sexual debut, a recent study has found.

Drawing from a nationwide German registry, the researchers assessed 492 survivors of childhood cancer for psychosexual development 6–26 years after their diagnosis. In particular, standardized measures of sexual satisfaction, sexual functioning, and psychosexual milestones (first kiss, sexual debut, etc) were used. For comparison, normative data from 1,533 controls were used.

Overall, psychosexual milestones were comparable to normative data, including age at first relationship, first kiss, and first time in love. The only exception was sexual debut, which tended to be delayed among survivors (mean age at debut: 17.4 vs 16.2 years; p<0.001). Nevertheless, majority of survivors felt that their timing was “right” (58.3 percent).

There were also significantly fewer sexually experienced survivors vs controls (82.5 percent vs 88 percent; p<0.001).

Women survivors were slightly more experienced than their male counterparts, showing a higher percentage of participants who had had their first kiss and first relationship. While those who had had brain tumours were less likely to sexually debut, the age at cancer diagnosis did not seem to affect the attainment of psychosexual milestones.

In terms of sexual function, women who perceived their debuts to be delayed or late showed significantly lower satisfaction levels (p=0.026) but bore no dysfunction. Meanwhile, partnered men showed particularly low levels of dysfunction. Sexual function was favourable overall, with 60.2 percent saying that it was not or barely problematic.

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