Dyspareunia affects most women after treatment for gynecologic malignancies. However, to date, evidence-based interventions remain limited and no study has examined the effects of multimodal physical therapy on psychosexual outcomes in these patients.
To assess the effects of multimodal physical therapy on psychosexual outcomes including sexual distress, body image concerns, pain anxiety, pain catastrophizing, pain self-efficacy and depressive symptoms in women with dyspareunia after treatment for gynecologic malignancies.
Thirty-one gynecologic cancer survivors with dyspareunia enrolled in this prospective single-arm interventional study. The participants undertook 12 weekly sessions of physical therapy incorporating education, pelvic floor muscle exercises with biofeedback, manual therapy and home exercises. Outcome measures were evaluated pre- and post-treatment. Paired t-tests were conducted to investigate the changes from pre-treatment (P-value ˂ 0.05) while effect sizes (Cohen's d) were calculated to measure the magnitude of the change.
Main Outcome Measures
Sexual distress (Female Sexual Distress Scale-Revised), body image concerns (Body Image Scale), pain anxiety (Pain Anxiety Symptoms Scale), pain catastrophizing (Pain Catastrophizing Scale), pain self-efficacy (Painful Intercourse Self-Efficacy Scale) and depressive symptoms (Beck Depression Inventory-II).
Significant changes were found from pre- to post-treatment for all psychosexual outcomes. Women reported reductions in sexual distress (P ˂ 0.001, d = 1.108), body image concerns (P ˂ 0.001, d = 0.829), pain anxiety (P ˂ 0.001, d = 0.980), pain catastrophizing (P ˂ 0.001, d = 0.968) and depression symptoms (P = 0.002, d = 0.636) with an increase in pain self-efficacy (P ˂ 0.001, d ≥ 0.938) following the intervention.
The results suggest that multimodal physical therapy significantly improves sexual distress, body image concerns, pain anxiety, pain catastrophizing, pain self-efficacy and depressive symptoms in our sample of women with dyspareunia after treatment for gynecologic malignancies. The medium to large effect sizes obtained with the high proportion of women presenting meaningful changes according to the known minimal clinically important difference or clinical cut-off underlines the significance of these effects.
Strengths & Limitations
The current study used validated questionnaires to assess the psychosexual outcomes of a well-designed physical therapy intervention using multiple modalities to address the multifaceted aspect of dyspareunia in cancer survivors. This study did not include a control group, which may limit drawing definitive conclusions.
Findings showed that multimodal physical therapy yielded significant improvements in psychosexual outcomes in gynecologic cancer survivors with dyspareunia. A randomized controlled trial is indicated to confirm these results.
Cyr M-P, Dumoulin C, Bessette P, et al. A Prospective Single-Arm Study Evaluating the Effects of a Multimodal Physical Therapy Intervention on Psychosexual Outcomes in Women With Dyspareunia After Gynecologic. J Sex Med 2021;XXX:XXX–XXX.