Mary E. Ropka, PhD, RN, FAAN
Cancer Prevention and Control
With the support of a 5-year Cancer Prevention, Control, and Population Sciences Career Development Award (K07) from the NCI, Dr. Ropka is in the second year of work of retooling in behavioral cancer genetics. She wrote this application as a mid-career person who had primarily conducted cancer symptom management research in the past, but was now responding to a new scientific opportunity in cancer genetics. The long-term goal of her program of research is to develop and test decision making and decision support interventions for individuals and families dealing with the possibility or reality of hereditary cancer. Effective decision support interventions can promote informed decision making by these individuals and families - and result in more accurate risk assessment and risk perception, less emotional distress, decreased decisional conflict and improved decision satisfaction, and improved health outcomes as a result of primary or secondary cancer prevention or cancer-related health promotion activities. The initial portion of her NCI grant has involved training in: (1) cancer prevention and control; (2) decision making and decision support; and (3) cancer genetics, and was conducted primarily during the first year.
One study that is currently ongoing is a qualitative systematic review to identify, critically appraise, and synthesize evidence from research related to decisions about cancer genetic counseling and/or testing. Three aspects of these decisions are included: (1) the rate at which people undergo cancer genetic counseling and/or genetic testing; (2) factors related to the decision to undergo cancer genetic counseling and/or genetic testing; and (3) the impact or consequences of cancer genetic counseling and/or genetic testing. The steps in this qualitative systematic review process which have been completed are: (1) identifying relevant research by targeted searches in MEDLINE, CINAHL, and PSYCHINFO; (2) selecting studies to be included according to inclusion and exclusion criteria; (3) abstracting data from included studies (n = 112); and (4) assessing study quality. Current work is focusing on synthesizing the data and manuscript preparation.
Another study that is underway are the initial part of the Needs Assessment that she is conducting in order to ultimately develop and test theoretically-based decision support interventions for individuals and families dealing with hereditary cancer. The aims of this study are to: (1) explore decision making experiences of individuals and family members when dealing with hereditary breast cancer or hereditary colon cancer and (2) understanding of patient and family perspectives regarding what resources would be helpful to support them in dealing with decisions related to hereditary cancer. http://hesweb1.med.virginia.edu/faculty/ropka.htm