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William J. Gradishar, MD, FACP, FASCO


Improving Mammography Accessibility for Patients With Disabilities

By: Chris Schimpf, BS
Posted: Tuesday, December 5, 2023

The Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences has published an article advocating for the removal of systemic barriers to mammography experienced by patients with disabilities. Citing the limited research available on the topic and drawing upon their own personal experiences as case studies, Toronto-based health and disability advocate Lene Andersen, MSW, and Natasha Batchelor, MHSc, MRT(R), of Humber River Hospital, Toronto, identified obstacles to effective breast cancer screening experienced by this population and offered some recommendations to increase inclusivity and accessibility within the Canadian health-care system.

“When accessibility considerations are not mandated for mammography clinics, it causes a serious inequity in preventative health care for those with disabilities,” the authors noted. “Available literature indicates this is a factor in breast cancer screening delays for disabled people, which can—and likely does—result in serious consequences.”

The authors organized the barriers experienced by patients with disabilities into physical, social, and procedural categories. Physical barriers include inaccessible screening sites, inaccessible facilities within them such as changing rooms, and screening equipment that does not accommodate disabled bodies. Social barriers refer to biases, behaviors, and attitudes of service providers, as well as a lack of adequate resources and training in working with disabled patients. And, finally, procedural barriers encompass intake, admissions, and appointment procedures that tend to favor nondisabled patients.

Although the authors acknowledged physical barriers may be the most difficult to address in the short term, they argued the work can be started now, and much can be done immediately to address the social and procedural barriers they described. They stressed the need for collaboration among governments, health-care systems, and imaging associations, as well as commitment to an equity-based, patient-centered approach.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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