Physicians must pay more attention on how lung cancer patients suffer difficulties with sexual expression and intimacy, urge health experts.
"It is time that doctors and scientists paid more attention to this important issue," suggested Stephane Droupy from University Hospital of Nimes, France.
He was addressing the gathering at the fourth European Lung Cancer Conference (ELCC) here Friday.
Researchers have estimated that sexual dysfunction affects between 40 and 100 percent of patients who undergo cancer treatment.
Studies reveal that these problems may persist in due course rather than improving.
"We still have to do a lot of work on the awareness of sexual problems after cancer - lung cancer in particular. We hope that our session at ELCC would help begin the discussion about how best to help this group of patients," Droupy added.
The emotional and physical consequences of lung cancer, as well as the impact of treatments, can all affect sexuality, he said.
For example, patients often experience a loss of libido when they learn they have cancer. The feelings of grief and depression can also diminish desire.
The physical changes that result from cancer and the impact of treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy can also have negative impacts on sexual expression, he noted.
Unlike other cancers, where survival is improving, lung cancer management often focuses on short-term quality of life improvement and palliative care.
"Sexuality is then even more difficult to protect or reconstruct in a short period of time when all efforts are made to stay alive," Droupy added.
Another important step is for doctors and patients to have open and honest discussions about what the patient is going through.
"We know that sexuality is important for quality of life and marital relationships, yet health care professionals frequently avoid taking the sexual history of a cancer patient," said Luca Incrocci, a radiation oncologist and sexologist from Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
The 4th European Lung Cancer Conference is being held here March 26-29.