Assessing and Responding to Psychosexual Concerns of Older People with Cancer — ASN Events

Assessing and Responding to Psychosexual Concerns of Older People with Cancer (#114)

Kim Hobbs 1
  1. Westmead Hospital, Westmead, NSW, Australia

Sexual dysfunction following cancer treatment is frequently experienced by patients and their partners, yet assessment and intervention in this area is often neglected. Patients of all ages report that health professionals often fail to address intimacy and sexuality concerns. This is even more likely to be the case in older people with cancer. Health professionals may make implicit assumptions that older people are no longer interested in sex, and that single older people are not sexually active. Evidence will be presented that confirms issues of intimacy and sexuality are indeed important to older people.
As patients may be reluctant to initiate discussions about these concerns this presentation will discuss strategies to elicit psychosexual concerns and address problems; acknowledging the inherent difficulties in discussing sexuality with people who are the same age as the clinician’s parents or grandparents. In this age group particular attention needs to be paid to the additional sensitivities around cultural and religious beliefs, social taboos and gender issues where the patient and health professional are of different gender.
The dimensions of sexuality and intimacy will be identified and principles discussed for communicating about psychosexual concerns. Myths and misconceptions about sexuality after cancer, as well as barriers to initiating discussion about sexuality will be highlighted. The use of appropriate communication skills to elicit specific sexuality concerns will be considered.