The NHS has brought attention to the fact that individuals with learning disabilities in Bradford District and Craven are less likely to attend cancer screening appointments compared to those without a learning disability.

Recent data indicates that only 30% of individuals with a learning disability in Bradford District and Craven have attended their cervical screening appointment, 32% for breast screening, and 67% for bowel screening.

To address this issue, Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership will be hosting an event at Manningham Mills on 9th October from 9.30am to 3pm. This event is for individuals with a learning disability and their support network, including friends, family, carers, and volunteers.

“We hope to share knowledge so that the people attending learn about being aware of their bodies and how cancer can affect them, what the tests are like, how carers can help support and why it is that making choices when you understand the benefit of a test is more helpful than waiting for a symptom to develop”, explains Vicky Donnelly, Strategic Health Facilitator for Learning Disabilities Health Support Team at Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership.

Bowel screening, breast screening, and cervical screening are all areas of concern. Not understanding screening invitations, or fearing the process, can deter patients from attending. However, evidence shows that cancers, particularly bowel cancer, can be problematic for people with learning disabilities. Hence, screening is crucial in detecting early signs of cancer and, hopefully, reducing premature deaths.

According to the NHS, individuals with a learning disability not only experience poorer health than the general population but are also more likely to pass away at a younger age. One of the key reasons for this is the limited access to health services and obstacles in accessing screening. Services must ensure they make reasonable adjustments for people with learning disabilities to facilitate their attendance.

Janet Hargreaves, Senior Programme Manager for Cancer at Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership, said: “We’ve noticed that cancer screening is difficult for people whose capacity to understand and consent to the examination is limited. There is a misconception that screening is for diagnosing cancer and a lack of understanding of the importance of having a screen and how it can prevent cancers. We often find the thought of a screen makes people anxious, and scared and causes embarrassment.

“Families, friends and carers play an important role in improving screening uptake and preventing cancers. This event is a great opportunity to raise awareness with these groups so they can help the person with a learning disability understand more about screening and make an informed decision.”