Toronto Star Interview
The Toronto Star recently spoke to Doris Rajan, author of the report “Women with Disabilities and Breast Cancer Screening: Identified Problems, Strategies and Recommended Next Steps. An Environmental Scan 2013″ written for the Disabled Women’s Network of Canada and the Canadian Breast Cancer Network.
Women with disabilities are significantly less likely to be screened for cancer than their able-bodied counterparts, yet are more prone to certain cancers, a new report shows.
Physical barriers are only part of the problem. Attitudinal and procedural issues have an equally negative impact on women with disabilities and women who are deaf, says the report’s author, Doris Rajan.
“This is quite a critical issue that to date has not really been addressed in a systemic way,” Rajan says. “There has been very little intent in the healthcare field to pick up effective outreach and health promotion strategies and reach women with disabilities.”
The report, titled Environmental Scan on Women with Disabilities and Breast Cancer Screening , was published last month byCanadian Breast Cancer Network. It was researched and written by the Disabled Women’s Network of Canada. Rajan is a senior consultant with that organization.
She examined all existing research on women with disabilities and access to breast cancer screening, looking for common themes and consolidating all the information. Rajan says she was also surprised to discover women with disabilities have higher cancer rates – women with intellectual disabilities have a greater risk for leukemia, uterine and colorectal cancers.
“We do know that women with disabilities experience higher rates of poverty, lack of access to adequate income support and horrendous housing situations in terms of accessibility and affordability,” she says. “These all result in higher stress levels.”
People with disabilities also have a general lack of access to health prevention and promotion, as well as a lack of physical activity, Rajan notes.
Early detection of breast cancer is key to survival rates, but women with disabilities are less likely to be screened and more likely to have delayed diagnosis, the report notes. Women with multiple disabilities and intellectual disabilities are particularly vulnerable.