New research has tied blood and bone marrow transplants to negative sexual side effects.
In a study published online in Blood, the Journal of the American Society of Hematology, researchers at City of Hope in California found chronic graft-versus-host disease — a serious transplant complication that occurs when donor cells attack the recipient's cells — can cause sexual dysfunction in men and women.
SCT is an effective form of treatment for patients with blood cancer such as leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. It involves the transplantation of cells taken either from a patient's own blood or bone marrow or from a matched donor, effectively "replacing" damaged cells with healthy cells.
While SCT was once associated with high mortality, survival rates have steadily increased, prompting research seeking to study and maximize survivors' quality of life.
"Thanks to improved transplant survival rates, we have now been able to focus our efforts on examining how the procedure affects key aspects of recipients' overall quality of life, including sexual health," said lead researcher F. Lennie Wong, of City of Hope.
"Previous findings point to the unfortunate fact that, while recipients may physically recover, their sexual health might not rebound as much or as quickly. Data have been limited to this point, prompting us to take a closer look at this issue in a larger, more diverse group of autologous and allogeneic transplant survivors over an extended period."
The findings are based on a survey of 277 adult patients who underwent SCT at City of Hope for blood cancer between February 2001 and January 2005 about their sexual activity.
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Results showed an 18 percent decline in sexual function in men surveyed who had received total body radiation, a 32 percent decrease in sexual satisfaction, a 26 percent decrease in sexual activity, and a 17 percent decrease in sex drive after their procedure.
Similarly, 27 percent of women reported a decline in sexual satisfaction after transplantation and a 27 percent drop in sexual arousal.
"It is not often that the transplant team and patient will have a conversation about how this procedure could impact their sex life, even after recovery; however, we hope these findings will help encourage patients and their doctors to openly discuss concerns related to sexual dysfunction and address them with specialists who can help," said Wong.
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