Campaign launched to help women with learning disabilities access breast cancer screening

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among females in the UK, yet women with a learning disability eligible for breast cancer screening are the least likely to attend, even though it can save their life.

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month health and social care organisations across the south of England have teamed up to raise awareness and support women with learning disabilities to access lifesaving screening.

Recent data shows breast cancer screening for eligible female patients has decreased across all age groups in both patients with and without a learning disability. However females aged 65 to 69 with a learning disability saw the largest decrease, from 54.6 per cent in 2014-15 to 52.3 per cent in 2015-16.

Feedback from women with learning disabilities, health and social care professionals and families and carers, indicates numerous reasons for low levels and a decreasing rate of uptake, including a lack of understand, embarrassment or fear.

Whatever the reason for non-attendance, all health and social care professionals, alongside families and carers of women with learning disabilities can play a vital part in helping address this recognised health inequality.

Watch this short campaign video which highlights what people in Cornwall have been doing to change this. In fact, the work they have done to support women with learning disabilities attend breast screening has seen the number increase to above that of other women:

Simple reasonable adjustments (changes to make things easier) can make all the difference. Carers and family members can also help women with learning disabilities understand why breast screening is so important and attend their appointments.

Share or read through an easy guide to breast screening with the woman who has learning disabilities, or use this breast cancer and breast screening information. Also access leaflets which show you how to check your breasts and order free reminder stickers to put up in the shower.

Health and social care professionals wishing to support this campaign can find out how on the Transforming Care Programme resource hub.

All women aged 50 – 70 can have free breast screening. Some younger women with be invited early. For more information about breast cancer screening visit the NHS choices website.