Adverse effects associated with breast cancer treatment include impaired sexual functioning, negative body image, and emotional distress. Researchers in the Netherlands examined the effect of internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) on sexual functioning and relationship intimacy (primary outcomes) and body image, menopausal symptoms, marital functioning, psychological distress, and health-related quality of life (secondary outcomes) in breast cancer survivors with a DSM-IV diagnosis of a sexual dysfunction.
Women were randomly assigned to an internet-based CBT program (84 women) or a waiting-list control group (85 women). The CBT consisted of weekly therapist-guided sessions, with a maximum duration of 24 weeks. Self-reported questionnaires were completed by the intervention group at baseline, mid-therapy, and post-therapy, and at the same times by the control group.
Compared with the control group, the intervention group showed a significant improvement over time in overall sexual functioning, which included an increase in sexual desire, sexual arousal, and vaginal lubrication. The intervention group reported more improvement over time in sexual pleasure, less discomfort, and less distress.
The intervention group also reported greater improvement in body image and fewer menopausal symptoms than the control group. No significant effects were observed for orgasmic function, sexual satisfaction, intercourse frequency, relationship intimacy, marital functioning, psychological distress, or health-related quality of life. The researchers concluded that internet-based CBT may improve sexual functioning and decrease distress experienced by breast cancer survivors. The study findings are available here.