An Internet-based Psychosexual Intervention for Couples Following Treatment for Breast Cancer

Official Title

An Evaluation of an Internet-based, Psychosexual Intervention for Couples Following Treatment for Breast Cancer: A Phase I Trial


Diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer often leads to lower levels of sexual desire, decreased sexual arousal, painful intercourse, and difficulties achieving orgasm, and thus adversely impacts sexual functioning and intimacy. Despite the overwhelming evidence that many couples experience sexual distress following breast cancer, very few interventions have been designed exclusively to address these concerns. The purpose of this study is to develop and evaluate an online psychosexual program geared to the unique needs of couples experiencing sexual distress after breast cancer. This study will utilize a web-based approach, allowing couples to participate in the program from the privacy and comfort of their homes, and providing a resource to couples who may not otherwise be able to readily access support. Accordingly, this project has the potential for widespread positive impact for couples affected by breast cancer.

Trial Description

Primary Outcome:

  • Change in Sexual Function Questionnaire for Men and Women (SFQ-W, SFW-M) scores from pre (0 weeks) to post-treatment (6 weeks), and 3 month follow-up
Secondary Outcome:
  • Revised Dyadic Adjustment Scale (RDAS)
  • Maudsley Marital Questionnaire (marital sub-scale only)
  • Profile of Mood States Short Form (POMS-SF)
  • Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder Assessment (GAD-7)
  • Breast Cancer Prevention Trial Symptom Checklist
  • Spousal Skills Checklist
Many couples experience sexual problems following breast cancer treatment, and difficulties with intimacy and sexuality tend to extend past the 1 year post-treatment point. Given that resources available for couples who experience sexual distress after breast cancer are virtually non-existent, there is a need to develop and empirically evaluate psychosexual interventions for breast cancer patients and their partners. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the feasibility, process, and outcomes of an online, couples-based intervention designed to address sexual problems encountered by many couples facing breast cancer. The intervention will take place in the form of six E-therapy sessions delivered via secure, encrypted videoconferencing software commonly used by health care providers practicing telemedicine. Each session will be supplemented by psychoeducational materials (i.e. reading and/or video) available through a privately accessed homepage for the study. Thirty couples will participate in the study, and will be be randomized to either the treatment condition or the wait-list control condition. Participants assigned to the wait-list will have the option of receiving the online program once they have completed their commitment to the study (approximately 5 months later). In addition to completing standardized questionnaires, couples will participate in pre- and post-treatment interviews, which will be analyzed thematically in order to improve the intervention and its delivery. The proposed project builds upon existing research pertaining to the sexual health implications of female cancer survivorship, and will fill a gap both in the literature and support available to breast cancer survivors experiencing sexual distress. Given that sexual distress is such a crucial concern for women with breast cancer, and that the majority of couples experiencing sexual difficulties may not receive adequate support in this regard, the goal of the proposed project will be the creation of an accessible, cost-effective, empirically validated tool that could help improve the quality of life of couples affected by breast cancer.

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Canadian Cancer Society

These resources are provided in partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society