Journal Club

Ovarian Cancer Survivors: Qualitative Analysis of the Symptom of Sexuality

Margaret C. Wilmoth

Elizabeth Hatmaker-Flanigan

Vanessa LaLoggia

Traci Nixon

qualitative research, ovarian neoplasms, sexuality, survivorship, cancer survivor, cancer survivorship, survivors
ONF 2011, 38(6), 699-708. DOI: 10.1188/11.ONF.699-708

Purpose/Objectives: To better understand treatment-induced changes in sexuality from the patient perspective, to learn how women manage these changes in sexuality, and to identify what information they want from nurses about this symptom.

Research Approach: Qualitative descriptive methods.

Setting: An outpatient gynecologic clinic in an urban area in the southeastern United States served as the recruitment site for patients.

Participants: Eight women, ages 33-69, receiving first-line treatment for ovarian cancer participated in individual interviews. Five women, ages 40-75, participated in a focus group and their status ranged from newly diagnosed to terminally ill from ovarian cancer.

Methodologic Approach: Both individual interviews and a focus group were conducted. Content analysis was used to identify themes that described the experience of women as they became aware of changes in their sexuality. Triangulation of approach, the researchers, and theory allowed for a rich description of the symptom experience.

Findings: Regardless of age, women reported that ovarian cancer treatment had a detrimental impact on their sexuality and that the changes made them feel "no longer whole." Mechanical changes caused by surgery coupled with hormonal changes added to the intensity and dimension of the symptom experience. Physiologic, psychological, and social factors also impacted how this symptom was experienced.

Conclusions: Regardless of age or relationship status, sexuality is altered by the diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer.

Interpretation: Nurses have an obligation to educate women with ovarian cancer about anticipated changes in their sexuality that may come from treatment.

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