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Keywords:

  • Breast cancer;
  • breast cancer screening;
  • learning disability;
  • literature review

Accessible summary

This paper looks at what has been written about breast screening in women with learning disabilities. Breast screening checks for lumps in your breast that might be cancer. Breast screening is done in a special clinic and machines are used to take a picture (like an X-ray) of the breast.

The researchers read all the work they could find that had been written on breast screening in women with learning disabilities. They found that:

  • • 
    Fewer women with learning disabilities have breast cancer than other women;
  • • 
    Women with learning disabilities do not go for breast screening as often as other women;
  • • 
    Doctors and other health professionals need to know women with learning disabilities can get breast cancer.

Summary

As people with learning disabilities now live longer, they will experience the same age-related illnesses as the general population and cancer is a prime example of this. In women, cancer screening is used to detect early on-set of cancer of the breast and abnormalities of the cervix which might, if left untreated, develop into cancer. Disappointingly, the literature on cancer screening in women with learning disabilities consistently reports that cancer screening up-take is lower in this population compared to women in the general population. This paper presents a review of 35 articles relating to breast cancer, breast cancer screening and breast awareness in women with learning disabilities. Relevant papers and book chapters were located by searching a number of databases and undertaking hand searches, and includes publications from 1997 to 2007. The studies located ranged from localised health initiatives to improve breast awareness and breast screening up-take, to population studies. Although more is being published on cancer in people with learning disabilities there is still a paucity of literature on breast screening amongst women with learning disabilities. This review therefore, up-dates current knowledge on breast cancer incidence and breast awareness whilst critically reviewing studies specifically focusing on breast screening in women with learning disabilities.