Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Breast cancer and the mobility impaired

Any woman who is used to walking and standing may understand the rigors of trying to get a mammogram, or even what's involved in receiving chemotherapy during treatment. However, if you are bound to a wheelchair, then being able to stand to receive a mammogram or move into a recliner for chemotherapy can be a struggle. Being helped to stand as well as carried around can be humiliating for someone already burdened with the stress of a possible breast cancer diagnosis. The problem is that there are not many handicap-accessible machines to accommodate the mobility impaired patients who must use them.

The good news is, more medical establishments and health care professionals are finally paying attention to the needs of the mobility impaired. Physicians and staff are being trained to accommodate the physical limitations of patients who require a mammogram or chemotherapy.

The first step is to discuss these limitations with your doctor. More and more medical facilities are becoming handicap-accessible and steps are being taken to include this accessibility inside of the buildings. If the arms of your wheelchair can be lowered, this will make it easier to receive a mammogram while in your wheelchair. If you are not able to sit up for the duration of your mammogram, a Velcro apparatus will be used to help you.

It's a good idea to ask someone to come with you to your appointments. A friend, sibling or caregiver is likely willing to assist you if needed so that you can receive your mammogram or be comfortable while receiving chemotherapy treatments.

Before your visit, ask if you can see the imaging center first. Ask questions about what sort of accommodations are in place for patients who are mobility impaired. If this is not provided, then talk to your doctor about finding a facility which is more helpful to the needs of disabled patients.

The MayoClinic understands the rights and needs of a patient who is stuck in a wheelchair. They have created three facilities specially equipped to assist such patients:

The Breast Clinic in Arizona

The Breast Center in Florida

The Breast Diagnostic Clinic in Minnesota

Finally, a free guide for disabled women is available for review on the Internet:

Breast Self-Examination: A Handbook for Women with disAbilities

If you are mobility-challenged and must have a mammogram or chemotherapy treatment, don't resign yourself to the delusion that all disabled patients must "put up" with using equipment not accessible to the disabled or being discriminated against by physicians. Ask questions, speak up. Talk to a medical professional you trust. If you feel your medical needs are not being sufficiently met or that you are being discriminated against, find another physician. Don't accept discrimination from a physician, who is obligated to treat ALL patients regardless of race, ethnicity, social stature, religion, financial situation AND disability. Know your rights but, more importantly, know what kind of accommodations and services are available to you as a patient. Every person, disabled and abled, has the right to receive competent and thorough care for breast cancer and it's important to make sure that care is given to you. Medical treatment of breast cancer is important. Receiving proper medical care for breast cancer could mean the difference between life or death.

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