Introduction/Background To evaluate sexual frequency and vaginal functioning in patients treated with combined external beam radiotherapy ± chemotherapy and image-guided adaptive brachytherapy in the prospective, observational, multi-center EMBRACE study (www.embracestudy.dk).
Methodology Patient-reported sexual outcomes were prospectively assessed according to EORTC-QLQ-CX24 questionnaires at baseline (available for 1027 patients) and follow-ups: 1st year every 3M (months), 2nd/3rd year every 6M and yearly thereafter (available for 1044 patients with no evidence of disease). Sexual activity was analysed longitudinally, and defined as frequent if reported (to some degree) in ≥50% of follow-up and as occasional if reported in <50%. Prevalence rates over time were displayed. Associations between dyspareunia and vaginal functioning were evaluated with Spearman’s rank correlations, pooling observations over all follow-ups (N=2670).
Results After the diagnosis of cancer, 230/1027 (22.4%) of patients reported some degree of sexual activity. During follow-up (median 36M), 433/1044 (41.5%) patients reported no sexual activity, 128 (12.3%) occasional and 483 (46.3%) frequent sexual activity. Prevalence rates (figure 1A–F) revealed a slow increase of sexual activity during the 1st year of follow-up, reaching a plateau up to 5 years. Vaginal functioning problems during intercourse showed a substantial increase after treatment and remained either elevated or showed signs of slight improvement over time. Sexual enjoyment was impaired, with 37–48% of patients reporting to have ‘not at all’/‘a little’ sexual enjoyment over time.
Patient-reported vaginal dryness, shortening and tightening were significantly correlated with dyspareunia to r=0.407, 0.539, 0.552, respectively (figure 2A–C).
Conclusion More than half of locally advanced cervical cancer patients are sexually active and the majority of those report frequent sexual activity. Treatment-induced vaginal changes (dryness, shortening and tightening) are associated with dyspareunia. Sexual enjoyment is compromised in almost half of sexually active patients. This underlines the importance of efforts directed towards prevention of vaginal morbidity and sexual rehabilitation after treatment.
Disclosure The findings of this abstract were submitted to ESTRO (European Society for Radiotherapy & Oncology, accepted for oral presentation in April 2019, Milano, Italy) and ASTRO (American Society for Radiation Oncology, accepted for oral presentation in September 2019, Chicago, USA). All authors declare no conflict of interest. The EMBRACE study was sponsored by the Medical University of Vienna. Unrestricted research funding was provided by Nucletron, an Elekta company and Varian Medical Systems. Financial support by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy, and the Austrian Foundation for Research, Technology, and Development, the Danish Cancer Society and CIRRO - The Lundbeck Foundation Center for Investigational Research in Radiation Oncology is gratefully acknowledged.
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