Uptake in the bowel cancer screening program in Wales (~54%) is a significant problem. Previous studies suggest that various participant, organisation and test related factors seem to influence screening uptake. These factors include perceptions of risk, test characteristics (e.g. stool disgust), cancer fear, lower awareness of benefit and embarrassment related to symptoms and tests. Research into blood and stool biomarkers of bowel cancer, markers of risk and technological advances in bowel examination has developed rapidly and mainly focused on comparative efficacy for cancer detection. These new technologies however require systematic investigation of their acceptability, their likelihood of increasing screening uptake and their likelihood of influencing prevention related behaviour. Also, advances in precision medicine in a wider context needs to include the study of the impact of tailoring screening strategies to individual preferences.
The research question for this work is: How are technological advances in bowel cancer screening and risk stratification likely to influence engagement with screening?
The aims of the proposed PhD studentship are to assess whether a) there are individual characteristics (e.g. prior symptom awareness, help seeking, family history, prevention and risk reduction behaviour including screening participation) that may be related to preferences for alternative screening strategies, b) the application of new technology in those who are currently eligible for screening (responders and non-responders) would be acceptable and influence screening uptake, and c) risk information (e.g. polyp identification, genetic risk information, lifestyle behaviours) might influence participants’ willingness to participate in screening and/or modify their behaviour. This work will be undertaken through analysis of responders to a Healthwise Wales (HWW) bowel module. This module asks questions on bowel symptom awareness, help seeking, prevention and risk reduction behaviour, family history, preferences and perceptions of alternative screening technologies and test specific delivery of screening. There will be the opportunity to contact participants for further data collection (e.g. additional questionnaire, in-depth qualitative interview).
Analyses will likely include both quantitative and qualitative methods. Quantitative analyses of HWW bowel module data will be performed to examine possible associations between preference for screening with alternative technology and individual characteristics. The HWW bowel module data will also be linked to Bowel Screening Wales participation and outcome data for analyses regarding screening uptake. Associations between risk factors and perception of risk with screening participation will also be explored. Qualitative analyses will be used following in-depth interviews to further understand the reasons for preferences, perceptions and behaviour intentions.
Applications must be made via the University’s online application service SIMS Online. Candidates are only permitted to submit one application but may select a maximum of three projects, ranked in order of preference. In order to be considered candidates must submit the following information:
• Supporting statement • CV • Qualification certificates • References x 2 • Proof of English language (if applicable)
The process for applying will be made clear on the advertisements. The PGR Office will be responsible for checking eligibility.
Applications will be accepted for UK and EU candidates wishing to study on a full time basis staring on 1st October 2018. Candidates must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree or the equivalent in an appropriate area of biomedical sciences. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a Master’s degree or have significant relevant non-academic experience. Candidates will need to have achieved at least 6.5 in IELTS (and no less than 6.5 in any section) by the start of the programme.
The studentship is generously funded by the School of Medicine
Tuition fee support: Full UK/EU tuition fees
Maintenance stipend: Doctoral stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum
Additional funding offered: Additional funding is available over the course of the programme and will cover costs such as research consumables and training.