NEW RESEARCH has found that individuals with physical disabilities were less likely than individuals without to receive crucial cervical cancer screening.
Using pooled data from the 2018 and 2020 Behavioural Risk Factor and Surveillance System, researchers retrospectively reviewed data from 189,795 females aged 25–64 years. In order to determine proportion of human papilloma virus (HPV) screening tests performed in accordance with the American Cancer Society’s guidelines, descriptive analyses of the data were performed.
The authors found that overall, 53.8% received HPV testing in accordance with the American Cancer Society guidelines. HPV testing disparities were noted between those with disabilities and those without. Testing was lower in patients with multiple, physical, and sensory disabilities, compared to those with no disabilities. The proportion of individuals without any disabilities that received HPV testing was 54.8%, compared to 49.7%, 48.2%, and 47.8% for individuals with sensory, physical, and multiple disabilities, respectively. In contrast, the proportion of HPV testing was higher in individuals with a cognitive disability, at 55.9%.
Furthermore, adjusted analyses highlighted that the odds of HPV testing were lower in those with any disability, a physical disability, or multiple disabilities, with adjusted odds ratios of 0.95 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.88–0.97), 0.96 (95% CI: 0.80–0.98), and 0.88 (95% CI: 0.78–0.97), respectively, compared to individuals without any disability.
The researchers highlighted limited physical access, lack of targeted education and awareness, and negative attitudes from service providers as potential factors that contribute to this disparity. These will need to be addressed to help bridge the gap. Potential solutions include ensuring there is appropriate physical access, personalised plans to address mobility and comfort, and improving education and awareness.
Study co-author Tarang Parekh, University of Delaware, Newark, USA, emphasised that the findings reflect “a potential deficiency in equitable access to essential healthcare services based on disability type,” and discussed how physicians need to understand the challenges individuals with disabilities face in order to develop tailored strategies to ensure that appropriate information, support, and access to screening are achieved.