Access to Cancer Screening in People with Learning Disabilities in the UK: Cohort Study in the Health Improvement Network, a Primary Care Research Database

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Abstract

Objectives: To assess whether people with learning disability in the UK have poorer access to cancer screening. Design: Four cohort studies comparing people with and without learning disability, within the recommended age ranges for cancer screening in the UK. We used Poisson regression to determine relative incidence rates of cancer screening. Setting: The Health Improvement Network, a UK primary care database with over 450 General practices. Participants: Individuals with a recorded diagnosis of learning disability including general diagnostic terms, specific syndromes, chromosomal abnormalities and autism in their General Practitioner computerised notes. For each type of cancer screening, a comparison cohort of up to six people without learning disability was selected for each person with a learning disability, using stratified sampling on age within GP practice. Main outcome measures: Incidence rate ratios for receiving 1) a cervical smear test, 2) a mammogram, 3) a faecal occult blood test and 4) a prostate specific antigen test. Results: Relative rates of screening for all four cancers were significantly lower for people with learning disability. The adjusted incidence rate ratios (95% confidence intervals) were Cervical smears: Number eligible with learning disability = 6,254; IRR = 0.54 (0.52-0.56). Mammograms: Number eligible with learning disability = 2,956; IRR = 0.76 (0.72-0.81); Prostate Specific Antigen: Number eligible = 3,520; IRR = 0.87 (0.80-0.96) and Faecal Occult Blood Number eligible = 6,566; 0.86 (0.78-0.94). Differences in screening rates were less pronounced in more socially deprived areas. Disparities in cervical screening rates narrowed over time, but were 45% lower in 2008/9, those for breast cancer screening appeared to widen and were 35% lower in 2009. Conclusion: Despite recent incentives, people with learning disability in the UK are significantly less likely to receive screening tests for cancer that those without learning disability. Other methods for reducing inequalities in access to cancer screening should be considered. © 2012 Osborn et al.

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Osborn, D. P. J., Horsfall, L., Hassiotis, A., Petersen, I., Walters, K., & Nazareth, I. (2012). Access to Cancer Screening in People with Learning Disabilities in the UK: Cohort Study in the Health Improvement Network, a Primary Care Research Database. PLoS ONE, 7(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0043841

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