Coping with sexual concerns after cancer: The use of flexible coping

Jennifer Barsky Reese, Francis J. Keefe, Tamara J. Somers, Amy P. Abernethy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Introduction Although cancer treatment commonly has a negative impact on sexual functioning, sexual concerns are still largely undertreated in routine cancer care. The medical model that guides current approaches to sexual care in cancer does not adequately address key patient needs. Methods In this paper, we describe a broader approach to understanding and treating sexual concerns in cancer that focuses on the construct of flexibility in behavioral and cognitive coping strategies. We previously presented this model in the context of general medical conditions. We now adapt this model to the context of cancer, focusing on issues related to the benefits of flexible coping, interventions that shift perspectives following cancer, and on coping as a couple. Results We argue that coping flexibly with sexual concerns is likely to lead to improvements in mood and sexual and relationship satisfaction. We present clinical applications of the flexible coping model, including suggestions for assessment and sexual concerns and methods of introducing flexible coping into both the content and process of clinical interactions with patients. Discussion Finally, we discuss areas for future research, including the development of a validated instrument, the use of electronic methods of assessment, and intervention trials directly addressing flexibility in coping.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)785-800
Number of pages16
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer
  • Cognitive
  • Coping
  • Flexibility
  • Sexual function
  • Sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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