PhD Graduates – Holmes

Wendy Holmes, PhD
Spring 2003

“The Sexual Health of Women Following Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation”

About the Thesis: The purpose of this study was to examine the sexual health of women who had received HSCT as compared to a sample of healthy women. Differences between groups and the effects of demographic, menopausal, illness, and treatment variables, and sexual self- schema on sexual health were explored. HSCT is now a life-extending therapy for many individuals. There is a growing consensus that information on psychosocial issues provides a more comprehensive evaluation of treatment outcomes than survival alone. Sexuality is an important component of quality of life that has not been adequately described in women following transplantation. Missing from the transplant literature are studies that describe how self-perceptions of sexuality change, what variables contribute to sexual dysfunction, the impact of sexual changes on physical and psychosocial recovery, and comparisons of sexual health with women who have not received transplants.

Introduction: A cross-sectional, descriptive, correlational design was used to address the study purposes. A convenience sample of 68 women participated in the study with 35 women in the transplant group and 33 women in the control group. Data for the transplant group were collected from five different sites including a University cancer center, regional chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and Internet support groups. Women in the non-transplant group were purposefully recruited from the same geographic locations in non- acute care settings. Data were collected at a single time point and included biographic, menopausal, illness/treatment, current sexual activity, and sexual self-concept information.

Results: The significant findings included women in the transplant group having overall poorer sexual health, poorer body image, loss of sexual interest, decreased sexual satisfaction and more ongoing sexual problems than those in the healthy group. Further investigation of the impact of transplantation on the sexual identity and sexual health of women will contribute to a better understanding of long-term survival issues, provide a strategy for identifying women at risk for the development of sexual dysfunction, and support the identification of intervention strategies to help women deal with the impact of transplantation on their sense of self, their expression of sexuality, and on their quality of life.