Breast Cancer Screening for Women with Disabilities

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in the United States, and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Living with a disability does not make you immune.

Women with disabilities are less likely to undergo breast cancer screening due to the inaccessibility of radiology and mammography equipment. Women using wheelchairs and other mobility equipment may be unable to position themselves close enough to screening equipment as needed to get a clear exam.

Despite these additional challenges, United Spinal urges women with disabilities to make every effort to follow the recommended guidelines for breast cancer screening.

  • 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.

Where Can I Go to Get Screened?

CDC advises women to get screened for breast cancer at a clinic, hospital, or doctor’s office. If you want to be screened for breast cancer, call your doctor’s office. They can help you schedule an appointment and assist with locating an FDA-approved accessible facility.

Most health insurance plans are required to cover mammograms every one to two years for women beginning at age 40 with no out-of-pocket cost (like a co-pay, deductible, or co-insurance).

Find a mammography facility near you.

Are you worried about the cost? CDC offers free or low-cost mammograms. Find out if you qualify.

Screening Preparation

When selecting a facility, be sure to call in advance of appointment to explain your disability, identify the mobility equipment you utilize and express your needs. You may also want to inquire:

  • Can the exam and changing rooms accommodate wheelchair users
  • Can staff assist with dressing/undressing, completing forms, positioning for exam, transferring from wheelchair to exam equipment
  • Can you have more time to prepare for exam given your personal needs
  • If aid or caregiver can accompany you for exam
  • If you can remain seated in wheelchair during exam
  • If facility is accessible (ie, elevator, entrances, bathrooms, parking lot, etc.)

Always discuss your concerns with your doctor in advance of your appointment and request their professional advice and consultation.

As a former member of the U.S. Access Board, United Spinal has been actively involved in developing new accessibility standards for medical diagnostic equipment under section 510 of the Rehabilitation Act. The standards ensure examination tables and chairs, weight scales, radiological and mammography equipment, and other diagnostic equipment are accessible to wheelchair users and other people with disabilities.