Supporting women with intellectual disabilities to access breast cancer screening: a healthcare professional perspective

Eur J Cancer Care (Engl). 2011 May;20(3):412-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2354.2010.01221.x. Epub 2010 Sep 6.


Cancer prevention has been identified as the most cost-effective strategy for cancer control. This should extend to all groups including women with intellectual disability, seeking to access breast cancer screening. The purpose of this study was to explore the role of healthcare professionals, such as primary healthcare staff (n= 8) and breast care staff (n= 10), on supporting women with intellectual disability to access breast screening in one region in the UK. A qualitative approach using focus groups and telephone interviews was adopted. Healthcare professionals identified that not only was it important that women with intellectual disability undergo regular breast screening but that they should have the same rights as other women to access breast screening services. While many varied risk factors for breast cancer in women with intellectual disability were noted, the level of cognitive functioning was clearly significant. Barriers to accessing breast screening included literacy problems, consent issues and physical health; practical barriers such as transport and timing of appointment; and barriers attributed to healthcare professionals, including staff attitude and lack of awareness and training. The participants identified the need to raise awareness and health promotion education not only for the women with intellectual disability but also for healthcare professionals, alongside developing more interdisciplinary practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Communication Barriers
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services Accessibility* / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability*
  • Mass Screening / organization & administration*
  • Mass Screening / standards
  • Social Support*