Cancer Centers Don't Stock Sex Aids

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

FEBRUARY 28, 2018

FIRST AN ANNOUNCEMENT: The hospital is about to make the long-discussed and planned switch to another platform for this blog and a number of other things. I think/hope/suspect that you will be automatically redirected, and I am told that both the current and another new URL will take you to this page. Here is the new url:

http://www.bidmc.org/livingwithcancer

If you have any difficulties, please email me: hhill@bidmc.harvard.edu

And now to today's topic: the availability, or lack thereof, of sex aids at cancer shops. I have to admit that this article took me completely by surprise, and that I was then quickly surprised and disappointed in myself that this issue has never occurred to me. 

We know, and I have frequently posted, about the sexual issues commonly related to cancer treatment and survivorship. I have discussed physical and emotional changes, body image, communication, etc. I think I have written in the past about various sexual aids/toys, but it never ever crossed my mind to think that we should stock some here at Windows of Hope and that similar cancer shops in other hospitals should do the same. Of course we should!

Having vibrators on the shelves along with hats and books and lingerie would normalize the issues, take away some of the awkwardness, and make it easy. In the meantime, we all know that virtually everything is available online (thank you, Amazon) and there is a shop in Brookline, Good Vibrations, that many people have found comfortable and well-stocked.

The article found that 87% of the cancer centers reported having no therapeutic sexual aids on site for men and 72% reported having no sexual aids for women. "Sexual dysfunction is one of the most significant and distressing problems for the majority of cancer survivors," Sharon  Bober, PhD, a psychologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, told a presscast in advance of the Cancer Survivorship Symposium (CSS) Advancing Care and Research in Orlando, Florida. "And we also know cancer survivors are unsure of or unaware of how to get help for these problems," she elaborated. Efforts to improve availability of sexual aids for survivors would likely promote sexual health rehabilitation and validate this underaddressed aspect of cancer survivorship, Bober and colleagues concluded. Read "Despite Need, Cancer Centers Don't Stock Sex Aids" to learn more about the study.