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Houston, Texas

People discussing health of women with disabilities
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Reference--Nosek, Howland, 1997

Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Among Women with Physical Disabilities

Nosek MA, Howland CA. Breast and cervical cancer screening among women with physical disabilities. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 1997;78(suppl):S39-S44.


This article reports findings from the National Study of Women with Physical Disabilities about rates of screening for breast and cervical cancer and factors associated with regular screening in a large sample of women with a variety of physical disabilities and a comparison group of women without disabilities. Participants included 843 women, 450 with disabilities and 393 of their able-bodied friends, aged 18-65, who had completed the written questionnaire. The most common primary disability type was spinal cord injury (26%), followed by polio (18%), neuromuscular disorders (12%), cerebral palsy (10%), multiple sclerosis (10%), and joint and connective tissue disorders (8%). Twenty-two percent had severe functional limitations, 52% had moderate disabilities, and 26% had mild disabilities. Outcomes were measured in terms of frequency of pelvic exams and mammograms. Women with disabilities tend to be less likely than women without disabilities to receive pelvic exams on a regular basis, and women with more severe functional limitations are significantly less likely to do so. No significant difference was found between women with and without disabilities, regardless of severity of functional limitation, in receiving mammograms within the past two years. Perceived control emerged as a significant enhancement factor for mammograms and marginally for pelvic exams. Severity of disability was a significant risk factor for noncompliance with recommended pelvic exams, but not mammograms. Race was a significant risk factor for not receiving pelvic exams, but not mammograms. Household income and age did not reach significance as risk factors in either analysis. Women with physical disabilities are at a higher risk for delayed diagnosis of breast and cervical cancer, primarily for reasons of environmental, attitudinal, and information barriers. Future research should focus on the subpopulations that were not surveyed adequately in this study, women with disabilities who have low levels of education or income, or who are of minority status.

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