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Guidance published on sex for younger cancer patients

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Nurses working with young cancer patients can now refer to a new resource to help answer questions about the sensitive subject of sex and relationships.

The creation of the free, online guide by children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent follows research revealing many young cancer patients feel uncomfortable discussing sex with a healthcare professional like a nurse.

“All young people deserve the right to make informed decisions about sex and relationships that puts their welfare first”

Matt Whyman

Developed with agony uncle Matt Whyman, young cancer patients and a team of cancer experts, it is designed to help those aged 16 and over navigate relationship and sex issues during and after cancer treatment.

It was devised in response to a survey of 125 young people aged 16 to 25 with experience of cancer on the impact of the illness on their personal and sexual relationships. The poll found young people were twice as likely to have questions about relationships and sex after being diagnosed with cancer.

However, the results also showed many of these questions were going unanswered, with young people finding it more difficult to get the information they needed.

When asked if they would find it easy talking to a nurse or doctor about sex, 63% said they would find it difficult.

The guide, which features a mix of written information and video content, includes advice on talking to healthcare professionals.

Nurses and doctors are now being urged to use the resource to help open conversations.

“This new guide is a valuable tool for any health or care professional working with young people with cancer who want to start an open and frank dialogue about the potential impact of cancer and its treatment on their sex lives and emotional health,” said consultant oncologist Dr Dan Yeomanson who helped develop the resource.

“Importantly, it encourages them to talk to health and care professionals and other about their concerns without feeling awkward”

Matt Whyman

Key concerns among young people who took part in the survey included whether a partner would find them attractive and worries about starting new relationships and having sex, such as being unsure about whether they could have sex while on treatment.

“All young people deserve the right to make informed decisions about sex and relationships that puts their welfare first,” said Mr Whyman. “This new guide tackles the key issues identified by CLIC Sargent and the young people it supports head on.

“Importantly, it encourages them to talk to health and care professionals and other about their concerns without feeling awkward or afraid of being judged and provides a starting point to work out what’s best for them on a host of related issues,” he added.

The guide is available to download from the charity’s website

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