Dr. Natasha Gupta on sexual health concerns of female partners of patients with prostate cancer


“[Female partners] reported a lack of physician-led sexual health counseling and support for partners of men with prostate cancer,” said Natasha Gupta, MD.

In this video, Natasha Gupta, MD, discusses the background, methodology and notable findings of the studies “Understanding the sexual health concerns and needs of female partners of prostate cancer survivors,” and “Preferences for interventions to address unmet sexual health information and support needs among female partners of men with prostate cancer.” Gupta is a research assistant professor in urology and population health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York, New York.


It's been well established that each step of the prostate cancer journey can affect sexual function for survivors. That's because the biopsies we do for diagnosis and all forms of prostate cancer treatment can cause sexual dysfunction. In fact, up to 85% of survivors report sexual dysfunction. Due to the reciprocal nature of sexual relationships, dysfunction among survivors can negatively affect their partners. And although there are studies of sexual health among gay and bisexual couples facing prostate cancer, few studies have examined the impact of prostate cancer on the sexual health of heterosexual partners of men with prostate cancer. That's why we conducted these studies in order to understand better the impact of prostate cancer on female partner sexual health and also their unmet resource needs. In order to better understand the impact of prostate cancer on female partners' sex lives and their unmet sexual health resource needs, we conducted in-depth telephone interviews with female partners and analyzed these interviews for major recurring themes. We continued to recruit female partners until no new major themes emerged from these interviews. Ultimately, we conducted 12 interviews with female partners. And what we found was that many partners described that they experienced sexual health losses both in the context of their own aging processes such as menopause and also in the context of their partner's prostate cancer diagnosis. They experienced prostate cancer-related sexual dysfunction as a couple's disease. And they also described that recovering from sexual dysfunction due to prostate cancer was a dyadic process that affected both members of the couple. Notably, also, female partners described a frustration with clinicians. They reported a lack of physician-led sexual health counseling and support for partners of men with prostate cancer. In addition, they reported a benefit of peer interaction, so reaching out to other female partners to get information about sexual health and prostate cancer. Then we asked partners questions about what sorts of interventions that we as providers can implement to help address these unmet resource needs beyond their own proactive information seeking. And in this study, we found that this was the same study methodology from these 12 interviews, but a separate set of questions. And what we found was that partners described a desire for technology-based intervention, so they felt like online interventions and social media were helpful ways to both connect female partners to each other and also to distribute information about prostate cancer and sexual health so that this information could be public facing. But they also described concerns about online misinformation, especially with respect to sexual health and prostate cancer. They also emphasized that sexual health resources should be available to patients and partners throughout the prostate cancer journey because sexual health needs of the couple evolve over time. And lastly, they mentioned a desire for female partner-specific support group so other female partners could talk to each other specifically about challenges navigating a prostate cancer diagnosis and sexual dysfunction without their male partners; some of these issues were difficult to discuss in the presence of the prostate cancer survivor.

This transcription was edited for clarity.

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