Urogenital Atrophy in Breast Cancer Survivors

Joanne L. Lester

Linda A. Bernhard

breast neoplasms, survivorship
ONF 2009, 36(6), 693-698. DOI: 10.1188/09.ONF.693-698

Purpose/Objectives: To review the symptoms of urogenital atrophy in breast cancer survivors, influencing factors, and their effects on performance.

Data Sources: Review of qualitative and quantitative research data that describe pain, function, satisfaction, and quality of life related to urologic, genital, and sexual function.

Data Synthesis: Breast cancer treatment can induce or exacerbate symptoms related to urogenital atrophy. The lower urinary and genital tracts are affected by physiologic alterations, the potential abrupt onset of menopause, and treatment side effects. Symptoms of urogenital atrophy often are more prevalent and severe in women treated for breast cancer than in age-matched women without breast cancer.

Conclusions: Symptoms related to urogenital atrophy are common in breast cancer survivors and can be affected by physiologic, situational, and psychological influences with negative effects on performance. Research is essential to the understanding of how transient or permanent hormonal alterations affect the urogenital system and the role of these symptoms on quality of life.

Implications for Nursing: Nurses must listen with sensitivity to breast cancer survivors and their descriptions of these significant and life-altering symptoms. Personalized discussion enables the nurse to explore issues, assess symptoms, recommend interventions, and evaluate at follow-up visits. Nurses are integral to the provision of survivorship care planning that can address the short- and long-term effects of a cancer diagnosis and related treatments.

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