Women who undergo conservative surgery for vulvar cancer experience little long-term problems in their sex lives or body image, a new study found.
Women diagnosed with vulvar cancer are often treated with surgery that involves the removal of substantial sections of the external genitalia.
Ellen Barlow, RN, of The Royal Hospital for Women in Australia, and her colleagues interviewed 10 women who had previously been treated for early stage vulvar cancer, with a focus on investigating the women's experiences of sexuality and body image.
The researchers found that the majority of women experienced little to no long-term disruption to sexuality and body image following conservative surgery to treat their cancer.
Women's sexual satisfaction was affected more by intimacy and relationship status than physical arousal.
Women tended to feel negative emotions if they experienced more radical vulvar excision, multiple vulvar procedures, and/or swelling of the lower limbs (a potential complication of surgery).
Some women expressed fear of possible removal of their clitoris, and all sexually active women expressed fear of pain on resumption of sexual intercourse.
The story has been published online in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.