Coping Together After Breast Cancer

  • End date
    Sep 1, 2023
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Fox Chase Cancer Center
Updated on 8 February 2022
endocrine therapy
hormone therapy
breast cancer staging


The objective of the proposed study is to evaluate an Intimacy Enhancement (IE) intervention in 120 female early stage breast cancer survivors reporting sexual concerns and their intimate partners. Couples will be randomized 1:1 to receive either the IE intervention or to an information and support condition (Living Healthy Together). The investigators will evaluate intervention effects on patient and partner sexual, relationship, and psychological outcomes.


Over half of breast cancer survivors experience sexual concerns resulting from physical changes due to breast surgery, chemotherapy, and hormonal therapies; emotional changes; and relationship difficulties. In contrast with many aspects of quality of life (QOL) that tend to improve over time for breast cancer survivors, sexual concerns often persist for years. As a result, many breast cancer survivors and their partners may wish to resume a satisfying intimate relationship after treatment ends but encounter difficulties in doing so. Sexual concerns often go unaddressed, can lead to clinically significant psychological distress, and have a negative impact on survivors' relationships and quality of life. Thus, addressing sexual concerns and improving sexual function is of critical importance to the long-term adjustment of these survivors. Given the central role of the intimate relationship in breast cancer survivors' sexual experiences, a couple-based intervention that systematically involves the partner may be a highly effective approach for addressing these concerns and improving function. Yet randomized controlled trials evaluating the efficacy of a couple-based intervention targeting sexual function for breast cancer survivors are lacking. In this study, the investigators plan to evaluate a four-session telephone couple-based intervention that provides education and training in cognitive and behavioral skills to help couples cope with sexual concerns and enhance their intimate relationship, called Intimacy Enhancement (IE).

The specific aims of this study are (1) to evaluate whether the IE intervention will lead to a significantly greater increase in patient sexual function from pre-treatment to post-treatment and 3- and 6-month follow-ups compared to the LHT condition; (2) to evaluate whether the IE intervention will lead to significantly greater improvements in partner sexual function, patient sexual distress, patient/partner relationship intimacy/quality, and psychological distress from pre-treatment to post-treatment and at 3- and 6-month follow-ups, compared to the LHT condition; (3) to evaluate whether increases from pre- to post-treatment in patient sexual communication and self-efficacy for coping with sexual concerns mediate the beneficial effects of the IE intervention on patient sexual function at 3- and 6-month follow-ups.

Condition Breast Cancer
Treatment Intimacy Enhancement, Living Healthy Together
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT03930797
SponsorFox Chase Cancer Center
Last Modified on8 February 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Patient is female
Patient age 18 years or older
Patient has a medically confirmed diagnosis of non-recurrent breast cancer (Stages T1-T4, N0-N1, M0)
Patient completed active treatment (e.g., chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, immunotherapy) 6 months-5 years ago (current use of endocrine therapy is acceptable)
Patient is currently in a partnered relationship that could involve sexual activity
Partner or spouse is 18 years or older
Patient lives with a romantic partner for at least 6 months
Patient has a score of at least 3 on Patient Care Monitor Sexual Concerns screening item

Exclusion Criteria

Patient or partner is not able to speak and read English, as stated in medical record, as observed by study team member or in self-report
Patient or partner ECOG Performance score > 2 OR medically unable to participate as judged by physician/in medical record or by self-report
Patient or partner has a hearing impairment
Patient and partner do not have reliable telephone access
Patient has overt cognitive dysfunction or psychiatric disturbance such as suicidal ideation or severe mental illness, as observed or judged by the researcher, physician or referring source, or self-report
Patient past or current history of any cancer other than non-melanoma skin cancer, including prior breast cancer
Patient is currently participating in couple/marital therapy
Patient is currently pregnant
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