"There is a growing population of people who are developing oropharyngeal cancer that is HPV-related," said Mr. Gallagher. This population, he said, consists predominantly of men between their 40s and 50s who often don't have a history of heavy tobacco and alcohol use that has been historically associated with oropharyngeal cancer.
Mr. Gallagher spent six years working as a nurse navigator in the Head and Neck Oncology program at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center before returning to school. He observed that many of his patients with HPV-related cancer were not knowledgeable about the sexually transmitted HPV virus. Mr. Gallagher realized little was known how much his patients learned about HPV prior to their cancer diagnosis or whether the HPV diagnosis was impacting their daily lives.
For his study, Mr. Gallagher has sent surveys to survivors of HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer. "The first part investigates how knowledgeable they are about HPV," he said. "Then the next part will assess how these patients are getting their information about HPV. The last part will explore if and how HPV is impacting their lives, including their relationships with their sexual partners."
Mr. Gallagher wants to use his data to determine whether there is a need for oncology providers to give this patient population more information about HPV during their cancer treatment. He said, "My goal is to help inform providers about the informational needs of these cancer survivors. An improved understanding of these needs could guide providers in the education of future patients.”
Dr. Deborah Mayer, PhD, RN, AOCN, FAAN, is Mr. Gallagher's faculty advisor for this study. Deborah Ballard, RN, MSN, a patient education coordinator at the N.C. Cancer Hospital, will be a co-reader for this study. Mr. Gallagher is also grateful for the assistance provided by numerous individuals at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.