Women with Disabilites and Access to Breast Cancer Screening

Having a disability can have an affect on how you go about receiving regular breast cancer screenings. It may be difficult for  some people with disabilities because they are more likely to face barriers such as negative attitudes, lack of knowledge, negative stereotyping, and inappropriate communications from healthcare providers.  According to the CDC, in 2010, the percentage of women with disabilities who received a mammogram was lower than the percentage of non-disabled women. Understandably, your provider may want to focus on caring for your health concerns related to your disability, but that should not stop women from receiving regular screening. 

If breast cancer is found early there is a greater chance for success in terms of treatment. We have put together some resources for how people with disabilities can navigate breast cancer screenings, including a list of questions and a sample script for how you can talk to a provider about your specific accommodations/needs in order to receive a breast cancer screening.

Photo by National Cancer Institute, Unsplash

National Resources:

The two following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) resources share health information for women with disabilities and guidance in terms of seeking breast cancer screenings:

Women with Disabilities and Breast Cancer Screening 

Disability and Health Information for Women with Disabilities  

Virginia Resource:

Health Advocacy Training (CHAT) – Virginia Commonwealth University 

Community & Health Advocacy Training (CHAT) is a program at VCU that educates people with disabilities and/or their family on how to communicate with healthcare providers, how to be assertive in asking questions regarding their health, and how to prepare for medical appointments.   


FAQ’s – Women with Disabilities and Access to Breast Cancer Screening 

  • Is the facility accessible (parking lot/garage, entrance of building, elevator, restroom)? 
  • Can the exam rooms accommodate a wheelchair? (manual/power chair)
  • Will staff aid in dressing and undressing, transferring, and positioning to screening equipment? 
  • Can I remain in my wheelchair for the duration of screening?
  • Does the equipment adjust to height appropriate for those remaining in the seated position?
  • Can I have a caregiver or loved one accompany me?

In order to be prepared for your screening:

  • Call your primary health doctor and ask about any disability-related accommodations you may need to prepare for. Given your disability and level of functioning, it could be beneficial to know if you will be required to sit upright or stand for an extended period of time. 
  • Call ahead to the facility. See the sample script attached to help  initiate and guide you through the conversation with the facility staff. 

Sample script for calling screening facility:

Hello, my name is _____ and I have ______ (injury/condition) which requires me to use ____ (assistive device/mobility aid) and leaves me unable to ______ (stand/stand longer than X minutes). I wanted to ensure that the facility is able to accommodate me before scheduling and confirming an appointment.  

If you normally have someone go with you to your doctor appointments, ask in advance if someone will be able to accompany you to the given appointment or ensure that assistance can be provided by a staff member, if needed. Refer to the list of Frequently Asked Questions to ask in order to be best prepared. 

Need Help? VBCF is here for you.

Connect with our Resource Coordinator, Nikki Jennings. Call 1-800-345-8223, email help@vbcf.org or click the chat bubble at the lower right of this page.