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Fox Chase Researchers Receive Grant to Study Approaches for Empowering Asian American Women in Cervical Cancer Screening

June 22, 2020

“We thought living in traditional enclaves would attenuate the association between inflammation and greater breast density because these neighborhoods may help maintain traditional lifestyle behaviors and provide a buffer against some of the changes that immigrants might experience, such as changes in diet and social environment,” Dr. Fang said. “What we did not expect to find was a negative association between inflammation and breast density in areas that are non-enclaves or emerging enclaves.”“We thought living in traditional enclaves would attenuate the association between inflammation and greater breast density because these neighborhoods may help maintain traditional lifestyle behaviors and provide a buffer against some of the changes that immigrants might experience, such as changes in diet and social environment,” Dr. Fang said. “What we did not expect to find was a negative association between inflammation and breast density in areas that are non-enclaves or emerging enclaves.”

PHILADELPHIA (June 22, 2020)—A researcher at Fox Chase Cancer Center was recently awarded a grant for the first large-scale study evaluating a method that allows Asian American women to collect their own samples, which can then be tested for the presence of the human papilloma virus (HPV).

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In cases where HPV does not go away on its own, it can lead to other serious health issues like cervical cancer. Most people with HPV aren’t aware they are infected until symptoms like genital warts appear or they receive abnormal results on a Pap test during a screening.

“Cervical cancer screening rates are suboptimal among Asian American women, despite considerable efforts to improve Pap test screening,” said Carolyn Y. Fang, PhD, one of the principal investigators on the study and co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program at Fox Chase.

Fang will be conducting the research with Grace X. Ma, PhD, multiple principal investigator for the study, and founding director of the Center for Asian Health and Associate Dean for Health Disparities at the Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine. 

“Many of the barriers to screening reported by this population are ones that cannot be easily remedied with traditional health promotion programs. Thus, we sought to explore novel approaches for increasing participation in cervical cancer screening,” Fang said.

She added that there are several factors that contribute to low screening rates, including cost, lack of insurance or regular healthcare provider, language barriers, embarrassment, or lack of time.

The grant from the National Cancer Institute provides researchers with $3.1 million over a period of five years. During that time, they plan to examine self-collection of samples for HPV testing from 800 Asian American women at community sites versus Pap smear testing at clinics.

Although prior studies have demonstrated that HPV self-sampling can be offered in community settings in the United States, none of the studies have focused on Asian American women specifically, despite the fact that this population has among the lowest cervical cancer screening rates, Fang said.

“The utilization of this innovative HPV self-sampling tool,” Ma added, “can potentially improve cervical cancer screening among the underserved Asian Americans with limited English proficiency, as well as other minority women in low-resource settings.”

For the study, twelve community sites will receive a previously tested community education program on cervical cancer screening, along with HPV self-sampling kits. Another 12 community sites will receive the same community education program plus navigation to clinic-based screening, which may include assistance with language or insurance barriers, transportation issues, or in identifying a nearby clinic.

“This research will inform future health promotion programs for patients who are unable to attend a healthcare facility for clinic-based cervical cancer screening. This work will also allow us to explore whether this approach is a cost-effective strategy, which is valuable information for those policy makers who establish national screening guidelines,” said Fang.

      

The Hospital of Fox Chase Cancer Center and its affiliates (collectively “Fox Chase Cancer Center”), a member of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence five consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.
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