Exploring breast cancer and screening awareness among Irish women with intellectual disabilities

Mary Reidy, Suzanne Denieffe, Sinéad Foran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Accessible Summary: We asked women with intellectual disabilities what they knew about breast cancer and screening programmes. We asked women what would put them off going to see a doctor whether they found something wrong with their breast. Most of those we asked knew that a lump was a warning sign for breast cancer. Most of those we asked did not know about the risk factors for breast cancer. Many women did not know much about the breast screening programme. Many women said they would be worried about what the doctor might find. Improving breast cancer and screening awareness is important for women with intellectual disabilities. Women with intellectual disabilities need to be taught more about breast cancer and screening. Abstract: Background Internationally, it is known that there are gaps in cancer and screening awareness among women with intellectual disabilities. Little is known about this awareness among Irish women with intellectual disabilities. The aim of this study was to explore this awareness among these women. Materials and Methods The study design incorporated a cross-sectional descriptive survey using an accessible version of the Cancer Research UK Cancer Awareness Measure. The questionnaire was administered to women with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities (n = 45, age range 20–59 years) living in the South East of Ireland. Results Almost three quarters of the women (77.8%) recognised a breast lump as a breast cancer warning sign. Knowledge about nonlump warning signs was much lower; 40% of the women did not feel confident that they would notice a change in their breast; 80% of the women could not recall a breast cancer risk factor. Overall, there was poor awareness of the national breast screening programme in Ireland. Worry and embarrassment about talking about their breasts would put women off seeking early medical intervention. Conclusion There was poor awareness about breast cancer warning signs, risk factors and the breast screening programme among the women. Where women with intellectual disabilities are lacking this knowledge, breast cancer warning may be missed. Carers and intellectual disability services need to ensure that theoretically based cancer and screening education interventions are undertaken which will enable these women to identify warning signs and seek attention promptly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-201
Number of pages9
JournalBritish Journal of Learning Disabilities
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018


  • gender
  • health
  • intellectual disability


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