This difficulty is also a consequence of the women's considerable lack of knowledge about the first symptoms associated with this disease, which are easily confused with symptoms common to other conditions. It is extremely important for a woman to know her own body well, to know how to “listen” to it and respond to changes by booking a doctor’s appointment.

Ovarian cancer mainly affects women after menopause, usually over the age of 50 and is the seventh most common type of cancer in women worldwide, with a higher incidence in Europe and North America.

The exact cause of this type of tumour is not known. However, there are some risk factors – age; obesity; first menstruation before age 12; late menopause (after age 52); never been pregnant or first pregnancy after the age of 35 – which can increase a woman's chance of getting this type of cancer. However, there are also known protective factors – use of oral contraceptives; tubal ligation – which seem to decrease this risk.

In today’s society sexuality still continues to be taboo, even in a clinical context there are several barriers that limit this approach. A diagnosis of cancer, as well as the treatment involved, affects the psychological well-being and quality of life of the women presented with this diagnosis, affecting the whole family, especially the partner. Approaching the subject of sexuality in women with cancer is essential to promote their well-being and quality of life. Physical factors such as anatomical changes, physiological changes (hormonal imbalance, urinary or faecal incontinence, weight change, fistulas, stomas) and the adverse effects of the treatment (nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue and alopecia) can prevent satisfactory sexual functioning, even when sexual desire remains. Although the physiological effects tend to diminish with time, the damage to sexual function can persist for years in survivors. Female sexual dysfunctions can be: orgasmic dysfunction; dysfunction of sexual interest/arousal; decreased libido; decreased vaginal lubrication; pain or discomfort during intercourse.

All these dysfunctions are possible and may vary according to the diagnosis and the various treatment the woman had to undergo, as they may be related to each other. In an assessment, it is necessary to bear in mind that dysfunction is only considered to exist when an alteration is persistent and causes suffering. It is important that women are sensitized to talk about the problems that disturb them and that can affect their sex life, and health professionals must be willing to listen and help them. The role of professionals in monitoring women with oncological diseases should include assessing their sexuality, in order to demystify beliefs and attitudes, clarify and provide specific information on female sexual responses, promote women's emotional intimacy and/or that of the couple and improve communication on sexuality.

For more information contact Grupo HPA Saude at +351 282 420 400