Women with learning disabilities have limited understanding of breast and cervical screening


Poor health in people with learning disabilities is associated with a number of risk factors, one of which is the lower likelihood of getting timely access to screening services.

Previous studies have shown that women with learning disabilities are less likely than those without disabilities to have access to cervical and breast cancer screening services as set out in the relevant clinical guidelines.

There are a number of reasons for this, and the researchers in this (USA based) study were interested in looking at one of these – the extent of women’s knowledge about cervical and breast cancer screening. They hoped to use this to inform the development and testing of a number of interventions to increase uptake of cervical and breast cancer screening

They worked with a sample of 202 women with learning disabilities who lived in community settings. They found that the majority of the sample had little knowledge of cervical and breast cancer screening.

Interestingly, they found that those who lived at home with families had the most limited understanding.

Cervical and Breast Cancer–screening Knowledge of Women with Developmental Disabilities, Parish S et al.,  in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: 50, 2, 79-91.

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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