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The Scientific Network on Female Sexual Health and Cancer

Although it feels a bit premature to say Happy Spring! (Thank you, Punxsutawney Phil), I am eager to say hello and share some updates from our Scientific Network. As we take stock from the past year and look ahead to 2022, I want to start by acknowledging that this March marks two years since the “before times.” For anyone trying to live, work, love, teach, care for loved ones, or simply function from day to day, this stretch of time has been tough on so many levels. I appreciate that while everyone gets lots of advice to do more - yoga, meditation, exercise, self-care – it’s also important to recognize that it has been challenging to keep doing what we do each day. I am just grateful to each of you for your support of the Network and your continued participation.

We have some great opportunities coming for creating visibility for the Network and collaborating with professionals from like-minded organizations, with several engagements scheduled in the first half of this year. By this issue’s publication, the Network will have presented a lecture and a breakfast presentation at the annual meeting of The International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (ISSWSH) in Dallas, Texas. In May, Dr. Kristen Carpenter will be presenting at the Oncofertility Consortium meeting in Pittsburgh, PA. Lastly, in June, the Network will be headed to Toronto for the annual meeting of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC). At the MASCC meeting, the Network will offer a joint session on the Assessment and Management on Female Sexual Health.

I am also delighted that the Network has plans to continue to offer our own opportunities for connection, education, and scientific collaboration! We are developing plans for another Network with the Network session later this spring. Most importantly, I am excited to share that we are now planning for an in-person Scientific Meeting to be held at Yale University in New Haven, CT, from November 17-18, 2022. Dr. Shari Damast (Yale University) and Dr. Kristen Carpenter (Ohio State University) are co-chairing our Planning Committee, and we hope you will mark your calendars for what will undoubtedly be a fantastic meeting in November!

Sending my best wishes for a happy and healthy 2022!

Sharon Bober
Debra Barton, along with the Scientific Network's Jeanne Carter and colleagues, recently published the results of a randomized controlled trial in the Journal of Clinical Oncology comparing the effect of bupropion versus placebo on levels of sexual desire in a sample of 230 breast and gynecologic cancer survivors. For each of the three arms of the study (placebo, 150 mg dose, and 300 mg dose), the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) desire subscale scores improved from baseline to 9 weeks but remained within the range demonstrating sexual dysfunction, and no statistically significant differences in mean change between arms were identified. The authors' recommendations include further research aimed to understand any unique underlying mechanisms of low desire in cancer survivors to support the development of effective treatments. Additionally, participants' sexual pain and lubrication scores indicated sexual dysfunction at both baseline and follow-up, leading the authors to consider the role for addressing vulvovaginal symptoms in future studies exploring interventions for low sexual desire in this population.
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Additional Publications to Check Out:
Characterizing Pelvic Floor Muscle Function and Morphometry in Survivors of Gynecological Cancer Who Have Dyspareunia: A Comparative Cross-Sectional Study
Marie-Pierre Cyr and colleagues, in the Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Journal

Correspondence Between Clinician Ratings of Vulvovaginal Health and Patient-Reported Sexual Function After Cancer
Network members Kathryn E. Flynn, Jeanne Carter, Shari Goldfarb, and colleagues, in the Journal of Sexual Medicine

Body Image After Mastectomy Scale: A New Measure of Body Image Behaviors and Beliefs in Women Following Mastectomy
Hilary Weingarden and colleagues, in the Journal of Women’s Health

Effects of Local Laser Treatment on Vulvovaginal Atrophy Among Women with Breast Cancer: A Prospective Study with Long-Term Follow-Up
Lucie Veron and colleagues, in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

Long-Term Follow-Up of Fractional CO2 Laser Therapy for Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause in Breast Cancer Survivors
Network member Allison Quick and colleagues, in the Journal of Clinical Medicine

Terri Coutee

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
My name is Terri Coutee. The focus of my professional life has always been in the involvement and practice of education. I am a trained ESL instructor and worked in public and private education until 2014. That was the year I returned to acquire my M.Ed. in Teacher Leadership. It was also the year when I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time. I had a recurrence in my left breast and a new primary in my right breast. After the news of my second diagnosis, I faced a double mastectomy, loss of both breasts. I was one of the fortunate few to have a breast surgeon who discussed all my options for breast reconstruction before she performed my skin sparing, nipple sparing mastectomy in May of 2014.

While I was recovering from my mastectomy, I began researching the topic of breast reconstruction and finding the best microsurgery specialist. I could who met my criteria for a surgeon. I did not realize it at the time, but my background, pursuit of my M.Ed., and fine honing my research skills, combined with a second diagnosis, would be the catalyst of my current work in the world of nonprofit leadership and patient advocacy.

Where do you work and what is the focus of your research or connection to women’s health and cancer?
I work as a nonprofit leader who established in 2016 after my successful DIEP flap breast reconstruction. This is a form of breast reconstruction that uses the patient’s own tissue (in this case, the abdominal tissue) to reconstruct a soft warm breast with blood flow and for me, sensation to the breast. The focus of my research is the latest treatment options, surgical procedures, and quality of life as it relates to women's health care and cancer.

How long have you been a member of the Network?
I am a recent member, since 2021, of the Scientific Network on Female Health and Sexual Cancer after meeting chair, Sharon Bober, PhD, at an online seminar hosted by the organization. It is an honor to have her as one of my valued guests on the DiepCJourney podcast. This is one of many resources we provide at DiepCFoundation for those affected by breast cancer.

What do you find meaningful and/or how have you benefited from Network membership?
The online presentation I attended is what initially drew me in. The quality of the presenters, the organization of the seminar, and interaction with attendees was highly informative and meaningful. When I read the mission statement of the Scientific Network and saw they promoted evidence-based education and practice, I knew I wanted to be a part of this. Collaboration, diversity, and excellence are the focus of my work. The Scientific Network consistently models this, and I knew it would only benefit and enhance the work I do with cancer patients. I am honored to be a member.

What is an interesting fact about you, or what is your favorite hobby?
A fascinating fact about me is that I have climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge. It was a fun, exhilarating, and shared experience with a dear caregiver who looked after me during my first diagnosis. My favorite hobby that is also a fun fact is that at the age of sixty-five and being a Nanna to two adorable grandchildren, I began weightlifting, as in dead lifts at the gym. I never knew the true benefits until I was encouraged to do it. But in the spring of 2021, I worked with a personal trainer and my personal best in dead lifts is 125 pounds. When I saw my oncologist for a routine checkup in the fall of 2021 she grinned from ear to ear and told me it was one of the best forms of exercise for women who have been through breast cancer treatment to promote bone health, balance, and a sense of body confidence. I couldn’t agree with her more! I love it!

As she noted above, Terri interviewed our Network Chair, Dr. Sharon Bober, for her podcast! Check it out here.
Optimal Sexual Experiences – Groups for People with a Cancer Experience

New psychotherapy groups for couples who have been affected by a cancer experience are rolling out this spring in both Canada and the United States. These groups for couples affected by cancer are the next phase of research conducted by the University of Ottawa’s Optimal Sexual Experiences research team. The material for the groups is based on the findings of a large in-depth interview study conducted with people across the sexual and gender spectrum as well as couples in their sixties, seventies and eighties who identified themselves as having extraordinary sex. These findings also led to the book Magnificent Sex: Lessons from Extraordinary Lovers by Drs. Peggy J. Kleinplatz and A. Dana Menard.

The Optimal Sexual Experiences Couples Therapy Groups are an 8-session treatment protocol that yielded statistically significant outcomes in initial studies of this intervention. Dr. Kleinplatz has trained pairs of therapists all over the United States and Canada to deliver this treatment and a few of these pairs are focusing their efforts on the cancer study, including Network member Pebble Kranz, MD, FECSM and her co-therapist Daniel Rosen LCSW-R, CST. To find a pair of group therapists near you, check out
Member Recognition
The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Annual Meeting took place September 22-25, 2021, in Washington DC, and featured presentations by two of the Scientific Network's members. Dr. Stacy Tessler Lindau, Founding Chair of the Network, presented Female Sexual Function in the Context of Aging and Complex Medical Conditions, and Dr. Shari Goldfarb, Immediate Past Chair of the Network, presented Menopause and Sexual Health in Survivors of Breast Cancer.

Scientific Network members Elizabeth Arthur and Jessica Gorman co-authored the chapter “Reproductive and Sexual Health Concerns for Cancer Survivors” in the recently published 1st edition of Psychological and Medical Perspectives on Fertility Care and Sexual Health, edited by Kim Bergman and William D. Petok, from publisher Elsevier Science Publishing Company.
We want to hear from you regarding your new and exciting endeavors in clinical practice, research, and scholarship! Send us a sentence or two about your accomplishment(s), along with your role/title, organization, location, and contact info/headshot (if desired). Shout-outs will be included in upcoming newsletters!
The Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO) ConnectED educational platform offers both patient and professional learning opportunities. See below for just a couple of the many offerings!

For Professionals:
Menopause with Mary Jane Minkin: HRT for Menopause Management in GYN Cancer Patients
This two-part series is offered on-demand for free. To sign up, visit this link and select "Take Course."

For Patients:
Embracing Sex and Intimacy after Cancer
This one-hour patient-friendly webinar features Network member Joanne Rash, PA, along with Dr. Lisa Barroilhet and Sarah Berstein, RN, and is part of the Uniquely You series by The Foundation For Women's Cancer. Patients can visit the SGO ConnectED registration page to sign up for this free on-demand learning opportunity.

* The Scientific Network does not endorse nor have any influence over the content of any of the resources listed above. They are included here for informational purposes only.

Greenberg Conference Center, Yale University

2022 Scientific Network Conference
November 17-18, 2022
Yale University, New Haven, CT
Society for Gynecologic Oncology Annual Meeting
March 18-21, 2022
Phoenix, United States + Virtual

American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2022
April 8-13, 2022
New Orleans, United States

Society for Sex Therapy & Research Annual Meeting 2022
April 28-May 1, 2022
Chicago, United States + Virtual

American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors & Therapists Annual Meeting 2022
June 2-5, 2022

American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting 2022
June 3-7, 2022
Chicago, United States + Virtual

XXVI World Congress and International Vulvovaginal Disease Update 2022
July 15-22, 2022
Dublin, Ireland

Sondra Bloxam, Portland, OR (Oregon Health & Science University)
Yoshie Sawin, MSN, WHNP-BC, Boston, MA (Massachusetts General Hospital)
Martina Murphy, MD, Gainesville, FL (University of Florida Medicine)
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