Women with physical disabilities are being denied cervical screening

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New research by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has found that women with physical disabilities are having to fight harder to access cervical screening. Some women have reported feeling neglected and feel as though their needs are not fully understood, whilst others have been denied cervical screening altogether.

Research has found that cervical screening prevents 75% of cervical cancers from developing. Despite this, the number of people getting screened in the UK is at its lowest point in 21 years. The study by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has found that women have purposely chosen not to attend a smear test because of a negative, past experience due to their disability.

The research has uncovered the misconception that women with physical disabilities are not sexually active and so are not at risk of cervical cancer. Of those surveyed, a fifth of women stated that this misconception had been made about them.

Kerry Thompson, who has muscular dystrophy, spent almost 10 years trying to get screened. After moving house, Ms Thompson was informed that she would no longer be able to have home visits, despite past tests showing abnormalities that needed regular check ups. Her wheelchair was unable to fit through her GP’s doors, and there was no hoist or wide enough bed for her to use. As a result, she was unable to be screened.

Many women like Kerry have been told that their GP surgery is unable to accommodate equipment such as hoists or wide beds for disabled patients. Those that are unable to leave their home due to their physical disability also report not being offered the option of a home visit by their GP.

Chantae Clark, a paralegal in the Medical Negligence team at Ashtons Legal comments: “Disability should not be a barrier to basic and life-saving healthcare such as screening. It is shocking that this level of stigma and inequality exists in accessing cervical screening across the UK. We know that the NHS is under-resourced and understaffed, however practitioners must be funded and supported in order to ensure that healthcare is accessible for people with disabilities.”

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