Effective patient-provider communication about sexual concerns in breast cancer: a qualitative study

Jennifer Barsky Reese, Mary Catherine Beach, Katherine Clegg Smith, Elissa T. Bantug, Kristen E. Casale, Laura S. Porter, Sharon L. Bober, James A. Tulsky, Mary B. Daly, Stephen J. Lepore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Purpose: Breast cancer patients commonly experience sexual concerns, yet rarely discuss them with clinicians. The study examined patient and provider experiences and preferences related to communication about breast cancer-related sexual concerns with the goal of informing intervention development. Methods: Patient data (n = 28) were derived from focus groups and interviews with partnered and unpartnered women treated for breast cancer reporting sexual concerns. Provider data (n = 11) came from interviews with breast cancer oncologists and nurse practitioners. Patient and provider data were analyzed separately using the framework method of qualitative analysis. Results: Findings revealed individual and institutional barriers to effective communication about sexual concerns and highlighted key communication facilitators (e.g., a positive patient-provider relationship, patient communication as a driver of provider communication, and vice versa). Patients expressed preferences for open, collaborative communication; providers expressed preferences for focused intervention targets (identifying concerns, offering resources/referrals) and convenient format. A model of effective communication of sexual concerns was developed to inform communication interventions. Conclusions: Findings suggest that to improve patient-provider communication about sexual concerns, knowledge and skills-based interventions that activate patients and that equip providers for effective discussions about sexual concerns are needed, as are institutional changes that could incentivize such discussions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3199-3207
Number of pages9
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017


  • Breast cancer
  • Communication
  • Patient-provider communication
  • Qualitative research
  • Sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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