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The NHS has highlighted that people 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 shows only 30% of people 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 help tackle the issue, Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership are hosting an event at Manningham Mills for people with a learning disability and their support network, whether that be friends, family or carers and volunteers, on 9 October from 9.30am until 3pm.

“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 invites, or fear of screening can prevent patients from attending a screen. However evidence shows that cancers and bowel cancer in particular can be an issue for people with learning disabilities and so screening is really important to pick up early signs of cancer and hopefully reduce premature deaths.

People with a learning disability not only have poorer health than the general population but are more likely to die at a younger age, say the NHS. Key reasons for this are lack of access to health services and barriers to the uptake of screening. Services need to ensure they make reasonable adjustments for people with learning disabilities to help support them to attend.

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, 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.”

The event, which can be signed up to online by Friday 6 October, is open to anyone with a learning disability and their support network. Refreshment and a light lunch will be provided.