Objective Breast cancer survivors experience a range of sexual health (SH) issues. Communication problems between patient and provider can prevent survivors from pursuing SH goals and can negatively influence biopsychosocial outcomes. The primary aims of this study were to identify provider communication behaviors that facilitate or impede clinical interactions regarding SH (according to survivors and providers) and to highlight discrepancies that affect care. Methods Forty breast cancer survivors and forty health care providers from a variety of specialties participated in semi-structured interviews informed by the Critical Incident Technique. Transcripts were thematically analyzed using the constant comparative method. Results Survivors and providers discussed the importance of honoring individual patient needs and conveying compassionate messages. However, accounts varied significantly regarding the appropriate timing and method of initiating SH discussions and the helpfulness of certain support behaviors and linguistic devices. Conclusion Provider and survivor accounts of what constitutes helpful and unhelpful provider communication behaviors when discussing SH concerns are misaligned in nuanced and meaningful ways. These discrepancies reveal potential areas for educational intervention. Practice implications SH discussions require providers to examine assumptions about patients’ communication preferences and information needs. Patients may benefit from frank yet sensitive discussions earlier in the cancer continuum.
- Breast cancer
- Patient-provider communication
- Sexual health
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Medicine