PhD Student Betsy Kidder Wins Dissertation Support Grant

January 10, 2014

Congratulations to the George Washington University's Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration student Betsy Kidder for being awarded a Dissertation Support Grant from the Jayne Koskinas Ted Giovanis Foundation for Health and Policy for her dissertation entitled “Self-administered HPV testing as a cervical cancer screening option:  Exploring the perspectives of two underscreened populations to understand implementation challenges and inform policy.”

Betsy's research investigates the role self-administered human papillomavirus (HPV) testing may play in improving cervical cancer screening practices among underscreened women. Specifically, the study investigates how Hispanic and Arab women – two populations of women in the U.S. who are consistently underscreened – respond to the option of self-administered HPV testing as a method of cervical cancer prevention, and how likely they would be to use self-testing as a first step in preventive screening.  

Cervical cancer continues to cause morbidity and mortality among women in the United States, particularly among those women who are screened infrequently or not at all. Recognition of the strong causal relationship between persistent, high-risk HPV infection and the development of cervical cancer has led to the use of HPV DNA tests in the cervical cancer screening protocol. In the U.S. HPV testing is used in conjunction with traditional Pap tests, though there is increasing evidence and support for the use of HPV testing alone as a primary cervical cancer screening test, particularly in low-resource settings. Novel health screening devices have been developed that allow women to self-screen for HPV, which may offer opportunity to simplify the cervical cancer screening protocol and reach women who do not have access to screening services or who otherwise would choose not to be screened. 

Because self-administered screening devices are not yet commercially available and most women have not had exposure to them, there are limited quantitative and qualitative assessments of women’s attitudes towards and likelihood to use such devices, particularly in the United States. This project uses survey methods and individual interviews to explore how the participants’ attitudes towards, acceptance of, and perceived sense of self-efficacy in using self-administered tests may impact their likelihood to use the tests. 

The goals of this research are to identify and elaborate specific implementation challenges and policy implications associated with incorporating self-administered HPV testing into the cervical cancer screening protocol targeted at underscreened populations. The research intends to inform the development of clinically sound, patient-centered, and culturally appropriate policies and systems intended to improve cervical cancer screening rates among underscreened women. It may further inform the implementation of self-administered HPV tests in low- and middle-income countries, where the impact on cervical cancer screening and prevention is expected to be of considerable magnitude.