RISE: Renewing Intimacy and Sexuality: A Pilot Program to Support Marital Intimacy and Sexual Health of Female Cancer Patients in Singapore

Principal Investigator:

Irene Teo Eng Ai, Assistant Professor, Lien Centre for Palliative Care, Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore

Study Team:

Tewani Komal, Eric Finkelstein, Semra Özdemir, Cheung Yin Bun, Lim Yong Kuei Timothy, Tan Yee Pin, Tan Jing Ying Tira


Disturbances in marital intimacy and sexual health is one of the most underrated and undertreated problems in cancer survivorship. A review on unmet supportive care needs of cancer patients noted one third to more than half of patients reported support for sexual disturbances as an area of unmet need during and after treatment. Patients whose sense of femininity and body image may be at risk, such as in the case of breast and gynaecological cancers, may be more susceptible to such intimacy and sexual disturbances. A prior study we conducted found 25% of gynaecologic cancer patients in Singapore reported dissatisfaction with their bodies and 19% reported feeling less sexually attractive. Unfortunately, there is paucity in formal resources for couples counselling within the oncology setting in Singapore.


The main aim of the study is to assess the RISE program, which consists of three 2-hour sessions facilitated within 6 weeks. Based on components of the RE-AIM framework for program planning, we assess the reach, acceptability, implementation, and (preliminary) effectiveness of the program.


50 patients are recruited from breast and gynaecologic cancer outpatient clinics at the National Centre and KK Hospital. Patients are considered eligible if they are 21 years old or above, have a romantic partner, have history of gynaecologic/breast cancer and meet screening cutoff for marital or sexual distress. Those who are interested in participating in the study are randomized to receive the RISE program or waitlisted standard care. The RISE Intervention consists of 3 sessions which last 2 hours each and is conducted with a clinical psychologist or medical social worker with experience in couples counseling.

Study sites:

National Cancer Centre Singapore

KK Women's and Children's Hospital


Marital and sexual health are important concerns of women as they undergo cancer treatment and transition to survivorship, however there are limited resources locally for women wanting to address these concerns. Patients whose sense of femininity and body image are undermined, as in the case of those with gynaecologic and breast cancers, are more susceptible to such intimacy and sexual disturbances. The results of this pilot intervention will allow investigators to establish whether a full-scale randomized clinical trial is warranted.

Project Start Date:

23 March 2018

Contact Person:

Kat: ekaterina.utkina@duke-nus.edu.sg