Dr Stephanie Smits is a behavioural scientist who works for PRIME Centre Wales and the Wales Cancer Research Centre in the area of screening, prevention and early diagnosis of cancer. We are delighted to hear that she has recently been successful in securing a Health and Care Research Wales Health Fellowship Award, which will allow her to continue her important research in bowel cancer. Dr Smits starts the fellowship in October 2018 and it will last for three years.
There are over 41,000 new bowel cancer cases every year in the UK. Currently in Wales, people aged 60-74 are invited to take part in bowel screening every two years. Bowel cancer screening is multi-faceted and involves uptake, follow-up of abnormal results, diagnostic and surgical procedures, and then rescreening.
Estimates suggest that 40%-60% of people of bowel screening age have two or more long-term conditions, this is known as multi-morbidity. The impact that multi-morbidity has on bowel cancer screening experience, completion and outcomes is not currently known.
Dr Smits will apply her behavioural science expertise to explore what bowel cancer screening is like for people with multi-morbidity. Importantly, this work will identify interventions and ways to address the influence that multi-morbidity has on:
- bowel cancer screening participants
- the health professionals who consult with them
- the screening service.
This research is timely due to the prevalence of multi-morbidity in older people and the ever-aging population. Further motivation for this research comes from the potential to reduce health inequalities, as multi-morbidity is associated with socioeconomic deprivation.
“I am thrilled to have been awarded this prestigious Fellowship,” says Dr Smits. “It will allow me to continue working in the area of bowel cancer, and develop new research skills. I am particularly excited about having a research assistant work on the project with me, as this will give me a great opportunity to develop leadership skills. I see the fellowship as an opportunity to develop new collaborations and help me transition to independence. In the future, I plan to apply for further funding to take this work forward following the fellowship, and to start developing my own research group”.