Nurses' knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding provision of sexual health care in patients with cancer: critical review of the evidence

Grigorios Kotronoulas, Constantina Papadopoulou, Elisabeth Patiraki

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

111 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The experience of living with cancer is associated with a variety of consequences in several central aspects of a patient's quality of life, including intimacy, body image, human relationships, sexuality, and fertility. Despite their importance, incidence, and impact on psychosocial well-being, sexual health care (SHC) is a matter not frequently dealt with by nurses in daily practice. Goals of work: The purpose of this study was to gather evidence regarding knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of oncology nurses toward sexual health issues and to identify salient and latent key factors which influence provision of SHC in the context of cancer. Materials and methods: A critical review of the literature was conducted over a period of three decades and 18 original research articles were retrieved and analyzed. Results: A comprehensive data analysis revealed that, although oncology nurses hold relatively liberal attitudes and recognize provision of sexual health care as an important nursing role, they possess limited sexual knowledge and communication skills, while often avoid or fail to effectively respond to patients' sexual concerns. Nine possible influential key factors have been studied: incorrect assumptions toward sexual issues, comfort, sexual knowledge, professional nursing role, patient- and nurse-related issues, work environment-related issues, continuing education activities, and society-related factors. Conflicting findings are reported. Conclusions: The findings of the present study propose that there is an evident need of dispelling the myths about sexual health in cancer care. Besides, continuing education activities and availability of education materials could assist nurses to adequately address sexual concerns while caring for patients with cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479-501
Number of pages23
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • attitudes
  • behaviors
  • knowledge
  • oncology nurses
  • sexual health care


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