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People with disabilities

Case study: Increasing cancer screening participation for people with disability: the role of a GP

International and Australian data indicates that people with disabilities are under-screened for cancer.1

General practice plays an important role in enabling people with disabilities to participate in breast, bowel and cervical cancer screening programs.

Consultation with GPs as part of a joint project between BreastScreen Victoria and Cancer Council Victoria has found that GPs often do not discuss cancer screening with patients who have disabilities or that GP clinic infrastructure acts as a barrier to accessing the screening procedure for people with disabilities.

For GPs who do invite patients with disabilities to screen, the nature of the disability itself can act as a barrier to completing the cancer screening procedure.

These discussions led to the development of a suite of resources which aim to increase cancer screening participation in people with disabilities. The resources do this by helping GPs to determine suitability for cancer screening in patients with disabilities, as well as providing information on how to overcome common barriers to cancer screening including appropriate pathways.

The following recommendations apply to all three cancer screening programs:

  • Consider other screening options e.g. self-collected Cervical Screening Test.
  • Include cancer screening in the patient’s health care plan.
  • Talk directly to the patient (where possible), rather than to their carer or support person.
  • Provide resources in plain language and other accessible formats, such as large print or text-to-talk platforms.

A complete set of recommendations is provided in Cancer screening for people with disabilities: A guide for general practice. The recommendations ensure that GPs understand the full breadth of considerations and can perform an accurate assessment on whether cancer screening is the most appropriate outcome.

Booklets in plain language and large print are also available to help engage people with disabilities in cancer screening programs. They cover the topics of all three screening programs, as well as colonoscopy and colposcopy.

1. Floud S, Barnes I, Verfürden M, Kuper H, Gathani T, Blanks RG, Alison R, Patnick J, Beral V, Green J et al. Disability and participation in breast and bowel cancer screening in England: a large prospective study. Br. J. Cancer (Internet) 2017 (cited 2019 Aug 16);117(11):1711. Available from: https://www.nature.com/article... / DOI: 10.1038/bjc.2017.331