Couple-based treatment for sexual problems following breast cancer: A review and synthesis of the literature

Allison J. Carroll*, Shirley R. Baron, Richard A. Carroll

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Purpose: Although there are many physical and psychological impacts on women’s sexuality following breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, sexual problems often remain unaddressed in these cancer survivors. Given the crucial role of the partner in sexual issues, couple-based sex therapy would appear to be a logical first-line treatment for this population, but there is scant research on the efficacy of couple-based treatments and/or sex therapy in breast cancer survivors. Methods: A review of the literature was conducted using the PMC, PsycINFO, EMBASE, and MEDLINE databases. Articles were included that presented the results of an experimental or quasi-experimental clinical trial evaluating a psychosexual intervention for couples, targeted women diagnosed with breast cancer and their partners, and included outcome measures of sexual function and sexuality. Studies were excluded if the primary intervention was not focused on sexual problems or if they were published in a language other than English. Results: From 2231 records, five articles met criteria for inclusion in the present review. Couple-based sex therapy appears to be an effective and highly accepted treatment for addressing sexual problems in breast cancer patients. These interventions were associated with improvements in sexual physiology, sexual functioning, sexual self-image, and sexual relationships, as well as improved psychological well-being of both breast cancer patients and their partners. Conclusions: Based on this review, the authors address clinical implications, particularly incorporating psychological treatment for sexual problems in comprehensive cancer care, and provide recommendations for further study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3651-3659
Number of pages9
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Breast cancer
  • Couple-based treatment
  • Sex therapy
  • Sexual problems
  • Sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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