Exploring the inequalities of women with learning disabilities deciding to attend, and then accessing cervical and breast cancer screening, using the Social Ecological Model

Kate Sykes*, Grant J. McGeechan, Emma L. Giles

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Women with learning disabilities are less likely to access cervical and breast cancer screening when compared to the general population. The Social Ecological Model (SEM) was used to examine the inequalities faced by women with learning disabilities in accessing cervical and breast cancer screening in England, UK. Methods: The findings from a qualitative systematic review and a Q methodology study were triangulated. Framework analysis, in line with the SEM, was used to develop an integrated set of findings. Findings: Women with learning disabilities may lack knowledge of cancer symptoms, and cancer screening, as well as being scared about the process and getting the results. The attitudes of family and paid carers towards screening may influence women with learning disabilities' decisions as to whether screening is seen as favourable; support and training may ensure unbiased perspectives. Barriers were also associated with how cancer screening programmes are designed, such as postal invitations which assumes an ability to read. In addition, screening staff need to be aware of the general needs of people with learning disabilities, such as the benefits of easy-to-read documents. Lastly, multidisciplinary working is required so reasonable adjustments can be embedded into cancer screening pathways. Conclusion: This article highlights multiple methods to reduce the inequalities faced by women with learning disabilities, which can be achieved through reasonable adjustments. Embedding reasonable adjustments can support women with learning disabilities in making an informed decision and accessing screening if they choose to. This may result in women with learning disabilities getting a timely cancer diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalBritish Journal of Learning Disabilities
Early online date18 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Mar 2024

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