Reversing the trend: learning disability outcomes in cancer care
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Reversing the trend: learning disability outcomes in cancer care

Susan Baxter Health services researcher, NHS Quality Improvement Scotland
Patrick Bradley Teaching fellow, Department of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Stirling

Susan Baxter and Patrick Bradley argue that greater emphasis in nurse education on health promotion, health screening and health protection may help reverse cancer trends among people with learning disabilities

In the UK, it is estimated that 2.5 per cent of the population have a learning disability and it is anticipated that this figure may rise by about 1 per cent per year over a 15-year period (Department of Health (DH) 2001). Many people with a learning disability have a higher number of healthcare needs, which are often more complex than those experienced by the rest of the population (Van Schrojenstein et al 2000). High rates of undiagnosed or poorly managed conditions such as cancer have been suggested as potential factors for morbidity and mortality rates in the learning disability population (Black and Hyde 2004). According to Raitasuo et al (1997), cancer risk increases with certain types of learning disability. For example, people with Down syndrome are at a higher risk than the rest of the population of developing lymphoblastic leukaemia (DH 1995). There is also evidence to suggest that cancer is the most common cause of death among people who have mild to moderate learning disabilities (O’Brien et al 1991).

Learning Disability Practice. 11, 6,22-26. doi: 10.7748/ldp2008.07.11.6.22.c6609

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