When confronted with cancer, a prominent challenge for patients and their partners is their changed sexual relationship. An empirically based theoretical model of the sexual adaptation process during cancer might be helpful in guiding the development of adequate interventions for couples who struggle with their sexual relationship. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to synthesize evidence from primary qualitative research studies and to arrive at a detailed description of the process of sexual adjustment during cancer. We conducted a qualitative evidence synthesis of a purposeful sample of 16 qualitative papers, using the meta-ethnography approach to synthesis. We found that the subsequent studies used different theoretical approaches to describe the sexual adaptation process. This led to three divergent sexual adaptation processes: (1) the pathway of grief and mourning, depicting sexual changes as a loss; (2) the pathway of restructuring, depicting the adjustment process toward sexual changes as a cognitive process with a strong focus on the social and cultural forces that shape the values and experiences of sexuality; and (3) the pathway of sexual rehabilitation, depicting sexual changes as a bodily dysfunction that needs treatment and specific behavioral strategies. All three pathways have their own opportunities and challenges. A greater awareness of these different pathways could help healthcare providers to better understand the ways a particular couple might cope with changed sexuality, offering them opportunities to discover alternative pathways for sexual adjustment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2059-2083
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017

ID: 30668875