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Women with Disabilities and Breast Cancer Screening

Finding Breast Cancer Early Can Save Lives

Disabilities & Breast Cancer Screening Fact Sheet

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in the United States, and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Thinking “breast cancer won’t happen to me” is a risk no woman should take. Having a screening mammogram regularly is an important way to maintain good health. A mammogram, which is an X-ray picture of the breast, is the best way to find breast cancer early, when it is easiest to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms.

  • If breast cancer is found early, treatment can have a greater chance for success.
  • Many women who are diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer live long and healthy lives.

Women with Disabilities Are Less Likely to Have Received a Mammogram During the Past Two Years1

Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations2

If you are between the ages of 50-74 years, be sure to have a screening mammogram every two years. If you are between the ages of 40-49 years, talk to your doctor about when and how often you should have a screening mammogram.

Percentage of U.S. Adult Women 50-74 Years of Age Who Received a Mammogram During the Past 2 Years, By Disability Status - 2010 National Household Interview Survey(NHIS)*

Percentage of U.S. Adult Women 50-74 Years of Age Who Received a Mammogram During the Past 2 Years, By Disability Status - 2010 National Household Interview Survey(NHIS)

* CDC/NCHS. National Health Interview Survey Data, 2010.3

CDC is Working to Improve the Use of Mammography Among Women with Disabilities

CDC-funded states are working to help more women with disabilities get screened for breast cancer. Here are a few examples:

The Florida Office on Disability and Health is increasing the number of train-the-trainer sessions on mammograms and women with disabilities.

  • The highlights of the program include:
    • Educating women with disabilities on how to prepare for a mammogram, how to get regular breast cancer screening, and how to locate local disability accessible mammography facilities.
    • Providing tips to health professionals on how to improve their mammography services for women with disabilities.
    • Partnering with the Florida Board of Radiologic Technology in the Florida Department of Health to develop and promote radiology technology disability training.

The Rhode Island (R.I.) Disability and Health Program is ensuring that women with disabilities have access to mammograms.

  • The highlights of the program include:
    • Collaborating with the R.I. Department of Health’s Division of Community, Family Health and Equity to inform women with disabilities on locations of disability accessible mammography facilities with accessible mammography equipment.
    • Working with the R.I. Department of Health’s Cancer Screening Program to make sure that screening mammograms are available and accessible to women with disabilities.

The North Carolina Office on Disability and Health is working to educate health care professionals about the specific needs of and appropriate communication with women with disabilities.

  • The highlights of the program include:
    • Supporting the Women Be Healthy health education curriculum, which teaches women with intellectual and developmental disabilities about breast cancer screening.
    • Providing education and training about women with disabilities to North Carolina’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program, which offers free or low-cost breast and cervical cancer screenings.

Getting Screened: Tips for Women with Disabilities

If you are a woman living with a disability, you may face challenges that make it hard to get a mammogram. Here are some questions to ask when scheduling your mammogram that can help you prepare for your appointment:

  • How should I dress?
  • How do I prepare if I use a wheelchair or a scooter?
  • Can the machine be adjusted so I can remain seated?
  • How long is the appointment and can I have more time if I need it?

Let the scheduling staff, radiology technicians, or radiologist know if you can/cannot:

  • Sit upright with or without assistance.
  • Lift and move your arms.
  • Transfer from your chair/scooter.
  • Undress/dress without assistance.

When preparing for your mammogram, remember:

  • Wear a blouse that opens in the front.
  • Wear a bra that you can remove easily.
  • Do not wear deodorant or body powder.
  • If you have any disability-related concerns, discuss them with your primary care physician, women’s health specialist, radiologist, physician’s assistant, or other healthcare professional.


CDC's Campaign: "Breast Cancer Screening: The Right to Know."

CDC’s Disability and Health Information

CDC's Basic Breast Cancer Information

CDC's Breast Cancer Screening Information

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Summary of Recommendations on Breast Cancer Screening


  1. Courtney-Long E, Armour B, Frammartino B, Miller J. Factors associated with self-reported mammography use for women with and women without a disability. Journal of Women’s Health. 2011; 20:1279-1286.
  2. Screening for Breast Cancer, Topic Page. July 2010. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
  3. Data File Documentation, National Health Interview Survey, 2010 (machine readable data file and documentation). National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, Maryland. 2010. Disclaimer: The NHIS analyses in this report are those of the authors and not NCHS, which is responsible only for the initial data.