NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. – Comprehensive care of patients with gynecologic malignancies should include a sensitive and thorough assessment of sexual health.
Inat the annual meeting of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology, Don Dizon, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, gives a series of practical tips to help physicians take a thorough sexual health history and provide information and guidance for patients and their partners.
Dr. Dizon, professor of gynecologic oncology and director of the oncology sexual health clinic at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, also in Boston, said that he likes to begin with the PLISSIT model, where patients are given permission (P) to talk about sexual problems. Then, the clinician gives the patient limited (LI) scientific or clinical information about the situation, followed by specific suggestions (SS) that might help. Finally, patients may be referred to mental health providers or sex counselors for intensive therapy (IT) if needed.
“It’s also important not to confuse terminology,” said. “Intimacy is experienced very differently between men and women. Women experience intimacy through arousal, desire, and, when desire is satisfied, that’s intimacy. Intercourse is not a part of that equation.” For men, he said, intimacy is more often experienced through intercourse. “So the disconnect is greater after cancer is diagnosed,” making it especially important to acknowledge problems sensitively, and to helps patients and partners find a way forward.
“The word I like to use is ‘play,’ ” said Dr. Dizon. When a renegotiation of an intimate relationship is framed in terms of play, the pressure is off, and “men can wrap their hands around that idea,” he said.
Dr. Dizon sits on the board of the Patty Brisben Foundation and the Young Survival Coalition.
On Twitter @karioakes