GPs are being encouraged to discuss sexual dysfunction with cancer patients, as a charity launches a campaign next month to 'break the taboo' surrounding the impact of cancer on sexual relationships.
A survey, carried out by charity Macmillan last year, revealed that 50 per cent of cancer patients experience sexual dysfunction as a result of their cancer or treatment.
However, 68 per cent of the 567 respondents said that no health professional had talked to them about the possible effects of cancer on their sexual relationships.
Additionally, 72 per cent reported that they were not told where they could get support.
Macmillan also found that NICE guidelines stating that cancer patients should have psychosexual support were not being implemented.
This comes despite the DoH calling, in the 2007 Cancer Reform Strategy, for the NICE guidance on supportive and palliative care to be implemented in full.
Dr Rosie Loftus, cancer lead for Kent PCT and a Macmillan advisor, said: 'Sexual dysfunction among cancer patients is a significant problem and one that we want to raise awareness of among GPs.
'The physical symptoms of cancer often mean that sex is not top of the list for cancer patients. There are emotional concerns and anxiety about their body image.'
GPs should reassure patients that it is not abnormal if they suffer sexual dysfunction, said Dr Loftus.
Macmillan will roll out its sexual relationships campaign next month. Online resources for GPs and patients will be available from May on its website.
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