By Martin McMahon: Complete Post through this link…
Many people with intellectual disability are diagnosed with cancer when it has already spread (metastasized) and the odds of survival are lower.
Intellectual disability is a lifelong condition that occurs before adulthood where people have a reduced ability to understand new or complex information, learn new skills and cope independently. In the UK it is called “learning disability”.
Cancer has been reported as the cause of death about 1.5 times more often among people with intellectual disability than people without it. In a recent study, my colleagues and I found that cancer is the second leading cause of death in Ireland for people with intellectual disability who live in residential care homes.
Cancers tend to be found late in this cohort for a number of reasons. One of these is the attitudes of healthcare staff, who may be influenced by stigma, previous negative experiences and communication barriers.
Other problems include underestimating the severity of a person’s symptoms or assuming that the symptoms are to do with their intellectual disability rather than having a biological cause. For example, if a person sees a doctor because they are self-harming, the doctor might assume that it’s related to the patient’s intellectual disability rather than a sign of distress caused by other symptoms they can’t verbalise.
Many people in this population have a higher chance of developing cancer and having worse outcomes because they have more long-term health issues with high rates of obesity, physical inactivity, and mental health issues. They are more likely to be poor, unemployed and lonely and their housing situation also tends to be precarious. Some studies have found that they are less likely to take part in cancer screening programmes.