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Dr Don Dizon: Discussing Sexual Health Needs With Patients With Cancer

Most oncologists aren’t comfortable discussing sexual health needs with their patients, but there are places where sexual health services for patients with cancer are starting to gain foothold, said Don S. Dizon, MD, FACP, FASCO, director of Women's Cancers at the Lifespan Cancer Institute, director of medical oncology at Rhode Island Hospital, and associate professor of medicine at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.


Most oncologists aren’t comfortable discussing sexual health needs with their patients, but there are places where sexual health services for patients with cancer are starting to gain foothold, said Don S. Dizon, MD, FACP, FASCO, director of Women's Cancers at the Lifespan Cancer Institute, director of medical oncology at Rhode Island Hospital, and associate professor of medicine at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Transcript

How has care for the sexual health needs of patients changed over the years?

The care for sexual health needs for patients, unfortunately, has not changed that much over the years. Part of it is due to the fact that I don’t think oncologists are necessarily trained or comfortable discussing sexual health with their patients. There is a movement now in selected centers, where sexual health services specific to patients with cancer have started to gain footing. Certainly, in my own experience I have started several sexual health programs in my own institutions. More recently, I’ve started working on what I call the oncology sexual health first responders clinic at the Lifespan Cancer Institute.

But what it takes is really some passionate provider to take up this area and say, “I will be the person to help my patients.” Without it, it’s hard to develop these services nationwide. But, to meet these needs of patients no matter where they are, there are some very good resources—both in written form as well as online—that patients can access independent of their oncologist visits, or independent, I should say, of the lack of discussion within their cancer centers.

I do still believe that these are essential issues that need to be discussed to help improve survivorship, whether it’s a patient that’s living without any evidence of cancer and for patients still living with active disease. You should not have to give up your sexual health because of cancer. My hope is going forward these issues will be more readily available and addressed by cancer centers.

 
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