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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Sexual health outcomes of a yoga therapy intervention for breast cancer survivors Carson, Anna


Background: Breast cancer treatment has improved survival prognoses; as such, the late effects of breast cancer and its treatment have become an increasingly important field of inquiry. Although the prevalence of sexual health problems among breast cancer survivors (BCSs) varies, they are among the most distressing side effects associated with breast cancer and its treatment. However, effective interventions for sexual health issues within this population have yet to be established. Yoga therapy, a health promoting, non-invasive, and non-pharmaceutical intervention, holds promise as an effective and acceptable approach to sexual health problems after breast cancer and its treatment. Methods: Using a controlled pre-post design, changes in sexual health outcome scores were assessed for participants in a three-armed yoga therapy intervention (YTI) study (Anusara yoga, Iyengar yoga, or waitlisted control). Multiple linear regression analysis was guided by a modified version of a pre-established framework comprising sexual health predictors in BCSs, in order to assess the strength of the relationship between YTI participation and changes in sexual health outcome scores. A subset analysis of only partnered participants was carried out because of the established importance of partnered relationships to sexual health. Results: Participation in Anusara yoga was significantly associated with an increase of 14 (of 91) points (p-value<0.05) on the Overall Sexual Health scale in partnered participants (AR²=0.43, p=0.001). Both age (p<0.001) and physical function (p<0.05) were also significant predictors in this model. Participation in Iyengar yoga was significantly associated with an increase in 3 (of 28) points (p<0.05) on the Sexual Function scale among all participants (AR²=0.23, p=0.026). Both age (p<0.05) and physical function (p<0.05) were also significant predictors. Conclusions: This YTI study showed evidence of effect in terms of improved Overall Sexual Health scores among partnered Anusara participants and increased Sexual Function among all Iyengar participants. Although preliminary, these results indicate that yoga therapy may be an effective, gentle, and safe intervention for BCSs who experience sexual health problems. Future interventions with larger, randomized samples, comprised by and designed specifically for BCSs with self-identified sexual health complaints, are recommended based upon our results.

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