An Upward Battle: Breast Health and Women with Disabilities

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Even though women have the same incidence rate of developing breast cancer, 33% of women with disabilities are more likely to die from the disease.

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We all know that mammograms and sonograms can be uncomfortable. But in the case of Azlee Blackwood, it was a horrific experience. First, she had difficulty accessing the clinic because of the absence of ramps and elevators. Then, she found out that the clinic did not have the provisions to assist a disabled person like herself. To make matters worse, the staff was insensitive to her special needs –  when Azlee told them that she couldn’t stand for a long period of time because of leg tremors, the staff told her that she can ‘sit when the test is done’.

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Even with a strong family history of cancer, Azlee says that she has been discouraged from going back to for a mammogram because of the lack of access, sensitivity and awareness from the people who run breast clinics in the state. She is only one of over 500,000 New Yorkers with disabilities who are “turned off” by the situation. Clearly, the high mortality rate can be attributed to this inaccessibility and insensitivity. Many clinics are not equipped with ramps or elevators and examination tables do not adjust to accommodate wheelchair bound patients. Staffs are also often untrained on how to handle and accommodate these special patients. All of these factors lead to a frustrating, awkward and stressful experience for the staff and the patient.

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The good news is, a group of concerned citizens are now working to improve disabled access to breast cancer screenings. They are encouraging clinics to provide these men and women access in accordance to state, federal and anti-discrimination laws.

We wish them all the best!

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