Importance of sexuality in colorectal cancer: predictors, changes, and response to an intimacy enhancement intervention

Jennifer Barsky Reese, Jennifer A. Haythornthwaite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The primary objectives were (1) to examine the importance of sexuality within the self-view and cross-sectional correlates for 120 colorectal cancer patients and (2) to determine whether the importance of sexuality changed for 46 colorectal cancer patients and partners participating in an intimacy enhancement intervention. Methods: Two newly developed items assessed importance of sexuality within the self-view (1) currently and (2) before cancer; a calculated change score assessed perceived change. In the cross-sectional sample, associations between importance of sexuality and demographic and medical factors and sexual function status were examined. Intervention participants’ importance ratings before and after participation were used to calculate effect sizes. Results: For patients, importance of sexuality before cancer was greater (M = 65.7) than current importance (M = 56.8, p = .001). Greater current importance of sexuality was associated with partnered status, non-metastatic disease, and not being in treatment. Scoring in the sexually functional range was associated with greater current importance of sexuality for men and a smaller perceived change in importance for both men and women (p values <.05). Sexual function status also significantly predicted current importance independent of covariates. Small to medium effect sizes for intervention patients (.37) and partners (.60) were found for increases in importance of sexuality. Items showed evidence of test-retest reliability and construct validity. Conclusions: Coping with sexual concerns is important to those affected by colorectal cancer. Findings suggest that the importance of sexuality can decrease through colorectal cancer and associated sexual problems and can increase through participating in an intimacy-focused intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4309-4317
Number of pages9
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • Colorectal cancer
  • Coping
  • Self-concept
  • Sexual function
  • Sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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