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Mechanic and Wenzel Pilot Project

Disparities in Social Support, Isolation and Coping among Cervical Cancer Survivors


Mechanic      Wenzel
Mindy Mechanic, PhD                        Lari Wenzel, PhD 
California State University, Fullerton    University of California, Irvine

Incidence and mortality rates of cervical cancer rise with increasing poverty and decreasing levels of education, with Hispanic women experiencing higher rates of cervical cancer than other women from lower socioeconomic groups. This is particularly true in California, where Hispanic women are twice as likely as any
other ethnic group to be diagnosed with this disease, and are more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage.

The proposed pilot study will leverage existing data from an NCI-funded grant examining biobehavioral benefits from a randomized counseling trial provided to multi-ethnic Southern California women with cervical cancer (N=204). Preliminary data analyses from this study indicate that those who received counseling improved on multiple psychosocial and quality of life (QOL) variables, compared to those in the control condition. However, preliminary qualitative and process evaluation analyses indicate that constructs of stigma, social support and social isolation may differ between Hispanic and non-Hispanic study participants.

To date, variables of social support and coping have not been examined to determine if they contribute to disparities in health outcomes, and specific to this study, whether these variables can predict potential benefits from counseling. Therefore, the specific aims of the pilot study are:

  1. To determine if social support and coping differ between Hispanic and non-Hispanic cervical cancer survivors overall, and by study arm (Counseled vs Control) in this dataset;
  2. To examine how change in social support and coping affects change in QOL and emotional distress outcomes in Hispanic and non-Hispanic participants;
  3. To identify unique and shared constructs of social support, social isolation and coping among newly recruited Hispanic and non-Hispanic cervical cancer survivor focus group participants.

Information gained from this pilot will provide preliminary data to develop an R01 or other grant proposal to address new intervention strategies to improve quality of life and enhance care for under-represented cervical cancer survivors. The study will combine the complementary expertise of the co-leaders, Dr. Mindy Mechanic in social support and coping and Dr. Lari Wenzel in cancer survivorship and quality of life in this collaborative effort. The proposal also includes a career mentoring and development plan for Dr. Mechanic, an experienced investigator who is new to the field of cancer research.