Bingo and blow-up boobs help women with learning disabilities attend breast screening

YARROW Macmillan nurse Bernadel Rizon and Labake Anisere at Yarrow Charity Breast Awareness Tea Party for women with learning difficulties copyYarrow charity this week launched a breast cancer awareness initiative for women with learning disabilities amid evidence that their uptake of breast screening is below the national average.

In an attempt to make the titillating topic more accessible for women with learning disabilities, the charity hosted a Breast Awareness Tea Party involving bingo and blow-up boobs. Over 60 women and their carers got hands on at the Elgin Centre, Shepherds Bush, where they learnt about the need for breast check-ups and the process of screening programmes.

Guests enjoyed tea, cakes and bingo, as well as a talk from Dr Victoria Harmer, a Macmillan nurse who used blow-up breasts with and without lumps to explain breast care.

The brains behind the idea is Maura Ireland, a Yarrow supported living housing manager, who has been working collaboratively with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Hammersmith & Fulham Mencap.

Nationally there is evidence that women with learning disabilities are not well informed about breast cancer and that uptake of breast screening is low – but careful preparation can increase the likelihood of a successful screening test.

Maura says the huge challenges she’s faced trying to convince women to attend breast screening made her determined to do something to try and fix the problem of how to get them tested:

“Many women do not think breast care is important and have refused to attend screenings even when there has been cause for concern. This is a serious issue and women with learning disabilities could end up being unaware they have breast cancer and will suffer poorer outcomes.”

“We want to show that there are positive steps we can take to encourage women to attend screening and our Breast Awareness tea party is doing just that!”

Mary O’Shaughnessy a Yarrow service user and tea party attendee agreed with Maura: “I have enjoyed today and I like how we are shown about breast cancer using breasts that we can feel and find the lump ourselves. It’s easier to understand and the cake is delicious!”

John Crawford, Chief Executive, Yarrow added: “Yarrow has been providing support for people with learning disabilities for over 25 years and we want to continue to give our users the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of health and health conditions.

“Given the success of our event for people in Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster, we will be looking to do further tea parties in other boroughs.”

Find out more about Yarrow at

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