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Why Sexual Health Is Crucial for People With Metastatic Breast Cancer – Heard in the Halls: Voices From the 2019 SABCS
Stephanie Graff, M.D.
December 11, 2019

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Dr. Stephanie Graff, director of the Breast Cancer Program at the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute, talks about why sexual health is so important for people living with metastatic breast disease and offers tips for people who may be uncomfortable bringing up the topic with their oncologist.

Running time: 2:20

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Stephanie Graff: Hi, my name is Dr. Stephanie Graff, and I am the associate director of breast cancer clinical research for the Sarah Cannon Research Institute. I’m excited to be participating in [the Mets, Sex, and Side Effects] panel tonight. I’m the principle investigator on the ELAINE trial looking at lasofoxifene, and that’s how I met the panelists and got invited to speak.

But I think the broader topic, and what we’re going to be talking about, which is sexual health for patients living with metastatic disease, is just crucial. I think that both patients and physicians are reluctant to bring it up in clinic. And sometimes we just get distracted talking about what the latest scans show or what your bloodwork looked like, and we forget that quality of life is really centrally important to what we’re doing. And it’s not just about you living, it’s about you LIVING.

Jamie DePolo: Living well.

Stephanie Graff: Right, exactly. And so I think that my message to patients and to physicians both would be: Ask about it. Program it in your list of topics that you’re bringing up, along with other things like bone health and other quality-of-life issues, things like joint health, aches and pains, and making sure we’re addressing all of that — mind, body, globally. There is so much that we can do around sexual health to really maximize that — again, improve a patient’s quality of life, help them stay on medication longer with better patient-reported outcomes. And I think that just starting that conversation can help patients connect with the right resources.

Jamie DePolo: Let me ask you one question. What about tips: Somebody’s a woman, maybe a little bit older, maybe a little bit shy, has a male oncologist. Really uncomfortable bringing it up. Do you have any tips for somebody like that?

Stephanie Graff: Yeah, yeah. So, I think you want to ask consent to have the conversation, and that’s the same advice that I would give a male oncologist wanting to bring it up, is, “I have some questions about sexual health. Would it be ok if I bring those up with you now, or would you rather refer me to another provider, or connect me maybe with your female nurse practitioner?”

There are a few nurse practitioner certifications for sexual health specifically, so maybe a male oncologist has someone in his office that he utilizes... maybe a female oncologist has somebody in their office that they utilize for those skill sets. But inviting them into the conversation can be a way to make it comfortable and give everybody a comfortable out if they don’t want to be having that conversation in that particular context.

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