Women with a learning disability are at a higher risk of premature, preventable death than women in the general population. Cancer is the leading cause of death in NI and as all cancers are less treatable in the later stages early diagnosis is vital. A key tool for early detection is the cancer screening services offered by the Public Health Agency including breast, cervical and bowel screening. However there is evidence that women with learning disabilities are not always able to access these services. The rate of women with learning disabilities receiving breast cancer screening has been decreasing in recent years and the percentage of women with learning disabilities accessing cervical screening is just 30% compared to 70% for women in the general population.

Some of the barriers preventing women with learning disabilities from accessing health services include:

  • a lack of accessible transport links
  • patients not being identified as having a learning disability
  • staff having little understanding about learning disability
  • failure to recognise that a person with a learning disability is unwell
  • failure to make a correct diagnosis
  • anxiety or a lack of confidence for people with a learning disability
  • lack of joint working from different care providers
  • not enough involvement allowed from carers
  • inadequate aftercare or follow-up care.

WRDA’s ground breaking Breast, Cervical and Bowel Screening Awareness programme was developed to tackle the low uptake of screening invitations by women living in some areas of Northern Ireland. The programme is fully adaptable for groups with learning disabilities.

The programme is delivered by our Training and Development Outreach Workers who have completed our accredited Level 3 Certificate in Learning and Development and specialise in delivery to groups with additional needs. The programme aims to raise awareness of the screening available, encourage participants to attend for screening and explores and addresses any fears surrounding the screening process. The Breast, Cervical and Bowel Screening Awareness Programme is offered free to groups and if you would like to find out more please call 028 9023 0212.