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Sexuality in Adolescents with Cancer

University of Calgary
Nancy Moules, PhD
Grant Type: 
Nurse Researcher Grants
Year Awarded: 
Type of Childhood Cancer: 
General Pediatric Cancer
Project Description: 

Adolescents experiencing cancer are simultaneously developing their sexual identity. This area has been largely overlooked in nursing research.  This study investigates the sexuality of adolescents experiencing cancer. Unique in this proposal is that adolescents will be the direct informants rather than just the population under investigation.

Sexuality is the experience of oneself as a sexual being, and the behaviors that arise from sexual identity and experience. Complications with the development of sexual identity and healthy sexuality have lifelong and serious ramifications such as relationship difficulties, fewer meaningful sexual relationships, sexual and social delays or deficits. Treatment may compromise physical appearance, self-esteem, body image, and emerging sexuality. In cancer, experiencing self, others, and treatment in the context of sexuality is poorly studied in the adolescent population and, in particular, the experiences of adolescents themselves have not been studied at all; as such, implications for nursing practices have not been realized. Although some adolescents and young adults adjust to changes in sexual development, function, and desire without difficulty, others experience depression, distress, anxiety, and confusion, and they may be hesitant to discuss these experiences with anyone.

Project Goal
The goal of this study is to develop knowledge of sexuality from the experiences of adolescents with cancer which will help to move nurses and others beyond a disease and treatment lens to appreciate the psychosocial implications of sexual development emerging in the context of cancer, recognizing that there are serious complications if the issue of sexuality in cancer is not addressed.