Understanding the use of breast cancer screening services by women with intellectual disabilities

Soz Praventivmed. 2004;49(6):398-405. doi: 10.1007/s00038-004-3121-z.


Objectives: The uptake of mammography for breast cancer screening is considerably lower among women with intellectual disability than for women in the general population. The purpose of the present study was to investigate carer perceptions of barriers and enablers to mammography use by these women.

Methods: To determine the reasons why women with intellectual disability are not utilising screening services, a series of focus groups were held with social trainers working in accommodation provided for people with intellectual disability.

Results: The major themes identified included the need for a medical referral or invitation from the mammography service to motivate people to attend; the belief that many women with intellectual disability would not understand the procedure or why it needs to be done and therefore would experience fear and anxiety to a greater extent than women in the general population; and that physical disabilities comorbid in many of the women would limit their ability to be adequately accommodated by the machines used to take a mammogram.

Conclusions: The social trainers agreed that many of the barriers to screening would be difficult to overcome and supported alternative strategies to mammography, such as clinical breast examination.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Disabled Persons / education
  • Disabled Persons / psychology
  • Education of Intellectually Disabled*
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Mammography / instrumentation
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data
  • Western Australia