Researchers Find Link Between Graft-Versus-Host Disease and Sexual Dysfunction

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A common and serious condition affecting some patients following a stem cell transplant may also be leading to sexual dysfunction.

Researchers from the City of Hope Cancer Research Hospital in Duarte, Calif., where many stem cell transplants are done annually, are reporting in the journal Blood that graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) – the complication following a transplant in which the graft (stem cells) begin attacking the host – is a possible cause of sexual dysfunction and diminished sexual health in these patients.

The study

Investigators identified 277 adults (152 men and 125 women) who had a stem cell transplant between 2001 and 2005 at City of Hope and asked them to complete three questionnaires five separate times: 17 days before the SCT procedure, and six, 12, 24 and 36 months after the procedure.

Two of the questionnaires concerned sexual function, namely with questions about sexual cognition, sexual arousal, sexual behavior/experience, orgasm and sex drive/relationship, while the third concerned quality of life.

Decline in sexual satisfaction

In those patients who had chronic GVHD, there was a 21 percent decline in sexual cognition/fantasy in men and a 24 percent decline in the quality of orgasm. Women with chronic GVHD reported a 27 percent decline in sexual satisfaction and the same decline percentage in sexual arousal.

In sum, investigators determined that almost half of survivors in the study were sexually inactive within three years of the procedure.

"It is not often that the transplant team and patient will have a conversation about how this procedure could impact their sex life, even after recovery," said lead author Dr. Lennie Wong. "However, we hope these findings will help encourage patients and their doctors to openly discuss concerns related to sexual dysfunction and address them with specialists who can help."

Source: MNT

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