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UK Women with Physical Disabilities Deterred from Cancer Screenings

According to research by the UK charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, women with physical disabilities are deterred from seeing a doctor due to discrimination. More than 60% of women surveyed said they haven’t been able to receive a pap smear due to their condition. About 335 women participated in the survey and live with conditions including cerebral palsy, spinal muscular atrophy and paraplegia.

The findings of the survey reveal that 88% of the women felt it was more difficult for women with disabilities to go to cervical cancer screenings and under half purposely chose to miss pap smear appointments because of past negative experiences.

About 23% of participants said they would need help getting on to the examination bed, with only 1% saying the doctor provides them with essential equipment needed for their appointment.

The discriminatory practices doesn’t stop there. Some of the women reported being asked by doctors to sign waivers saying they refused a pap smear.  One in five women reported a misconception that women with disabilities are not sexually active.

Overall, 45% of said they feel their needs are neglected and 40% said they don’t feel like nurses and doctors take their needs seriously. Chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust Robert Music said he was shocked at the inequality that exists in accessing cervical cancer screenings across the UK. He continued, “It is not acceptable that women with physical disability are often faced with additional hurdles or even being denied access to this potentially lifesaving test.”

The Realist Woman’s take:

I knew women with disabilities experienced discrimination but this study was shocking. The survey participant’s feelings on doctors and how they’re treated at an appointment reminded me of a recent story I featured about how gay women feel deterred to seeing a doctor due to the discrimination they face.

Women who fall into minority groups in society face discrimination and disparities in the healthcare system, an example of that being the maternal mortality rate among black women is three times that of white women. Minority women deserve respect when they see a doctor and even a little special attention when they can’t even hoist themselves up onto an exam bed.