BARRIERS TO SCREENING
Susan G Komen for the Cure provides the following information on women with disabilities and breast cancer:
Research has shown there are some reasons why women with disabilities may not receive breast cancer screening:
1. It is hard to get to the right place where the screening is offered:
- Women may have a hard time making and keeping medical appointments. For example, a woman who is deaf may not be able to easily contact a clinic that does not have a telephone system for the deaf.
- Facilities for breast cancer screening are not always easy to get to for some women, such as those who use a wheelchair. For example, there may not be a ramp or dressing room that is large enough to fit her wheelchair.
- The mammography equipment may not be easy to get to for women who have trouble walking or standing still in one position. For example, mobile mammography vans are not always wheelchair accessible. Mammography equipment may not adjust enough to allow some women to easily position themselves or sit while being screened.
2. Some disabled women believe that they are less likely to get breast cancer than other women, since they are already coping with one disability. They may believe that “lightning doesn’t strike twice.”
3. Health care workers may not know how to make sure that disabled patients get the breast cancer screening they need. They may focus on the disability and not screening for breast cancer.
SUCCESSFUL SCREENING FOR WOMEN WITH DISABILITIES
Susan G Komen for the Cure provides further information on how to ensure that you may have a successful breast screening:
- Find a doctor who is sensitive to your needs. Ask friends who they recommend.
- When scheduling a mammogram, tell the clinic about your disability. Let them know how they can help you get screened. It’s important to talk about this up front, since some clinics may not be right for you. For example, if you find it hard to stand during a mammogram, ask if you can sit instead.
- Ask your doctor to perform a clinical breast exam.
- If you are able, get to know the way your breasts look and feel. This will help you to know when something has changed.
- If you are not pleased with the services you receive, speak up. Too often, clinics don’t know how they need to improve their services to meet their patients’ needs.
- Bring a friend or someone you trust with you. They can assist you and support you, when needed.
More information provided by CANSA on what cancer is, what causes cancer and preventative measures that can be taken.
“Women with Disabilities, of all ages often have difficulty with physical access to health services”.
(Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women General Recommendation 24) Women and Health, in relation to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Article 12) (Twentieth session, 1999, paragraph 25).
This is the case for women with disabilities as it is often a challenge to find an accessible clinic that can endeavour that physically disabled women have successful medical check-ups and mammograms. For women in wheelchairs and on crutches who is unable to climb stairs, it is also important to find a clinic/health care facility that strive to be accessible, e.g has designated disabled parking, an accessible entrance and inside the venue, equipment that is flexible and also medical staff with a positive attitude that has an understanding of your disability and will do their utmost to ensure a successful examination.
Having a disability does not mean that you are exempted from getting breast cancer. The South African National Cancer Registry states that one in 29 women in South Africa will be diagnosed with breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Registry breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst women.
“Studies also show higher rates of death related to breast cancer among women with a disability, even when diagnosed at the same stage as women without a disability. Having regular mammograms can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer”. (Susan G Komen for the Cure)
Breast cancer is treatable when detected early. It is also important for all women to examine their breasts regularly, to undergo medical check-ups and have mammograms done. http://www.cansa.org.za/womens-health/