Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Anthropology

Major Professor

Roberta Baer, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Jeannine Coreil, Ph.D.

Keywords

Cancer survivorship, Human papillomavirus (HPV), HPV vaccine, Sexuality, Applied anthropology

Abstract

This research project aims to examine the idea of stigma attached to cervical cancer in light of its association with HPV, a sexually transmitted infection (STI). The public recognition of this relationship appears to be increasing due to the current media attention surrounding HPV's causative role in the development of cervical cancer, and the newly-released HPV vaccine. Thus, this study explores the experiences and perceptions of cervical cancer patients and survivors living with this disease at a moment in time when it is becoming a very visible manifestation of a sexually transmitted infection, versus one identified historically as a life-threatening cancer. Disease-related stigma has vast individual, community, and societal repercussions: in the context of both cancer and sexually transmitted infections, it is broadly associated in the literature with decreased levels of screening, reluctance to seek treatment, decreased access to social support, economic discrimination, and major difficulties in implementing large-scale prevention efforts, such as contact tracing or name-based reporting. This study is premised on the belief that including the voices of patients and survivors themselves will provide a more holistic and complete understanding of the dimensions of cervical cancer-related stigma, which in turn will help to inform future educational and prevention messages tailored to reduce its impact. Additionally, it will illuminate the complexities and dynamics of how patients/survivors are able or unable to access social support-a first step in designing more effective and relevant support programs.

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