Many people affected by cancer experience psychosexual issues requiring specialist counseling. Despite the effect cancer can have on a person’s sexuality, it is rarely discussed in the clinical setting. In 2012, Cancer Council Victoria (CCV) piloted a doctor-led, psychosexual counselling service delivered via a telephone Helpline.
To evaluate the CCV psychosexual counselling service to determine user profile and perceptions of the service, and feasibility for service delivers.
Service use data was analysed to determine user profile. In-depth interviews were conducted with service users by telephone to explore their experience of using the service. Views of the four specialist psychosexual doctors who provided counselling were obtained through interview.
Over nine months, 51 telephone appointments were conducted, and operated at 74% capacity. Thirty-nine individuals received counselling, with eight having multiple appointments. The top two cancer types of service users were breast (31%) and prostate (26%). Service users received counselling, written information, referral to other services, or a combination. The cost per session was approximately $200. Interviewed service users (n= 6) were generally very satisfied with the help they received. Specific feedback reflected the positive impact on service users’ perception of themselves as well as the benefit of receiving tailored advice around sexual health issues. Both clients and counsellors found using the phone to deliver counselling acceptable, while the cost per session was deemed to be reasonable by the organisation.
Results from the small sample of interviews indicate the CCV psychosexual counselling service provides valuable support to people experiencing sexual difficulties as a result of cancer diagnosis and treatment. Service improvement needs were identified with regards to strategies for increasing attendance, refining eligibility criteria and enhancing Helpline staff training.