January is Thyroid Awareness Month, and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists wants to make sure everyone knows about screening for thyroid disorders and cancers. Our own Media and Information Services Manager Jess Chaiken knows how important these screenings can be: “I’m a thyroid cancer survivor thanks to a routine screening.” During an annual physical, Jess’ physician felt a very tiny nodule on her thyroid and sent her to follow up with an endocrinologist. After an ultrasound and biopsy, it was determined she had papillary thyroid cancer. Jess had a complete thyroidectomy and radioactive iodine treatment and is now completely cancer free. “I didn’t have any noticeable symptoms so, if my doctor hadn’t done that test, we wouldn’t have caught the cancer so early.”
Thyroid screening is just one of several regular screenings that are recommended for good health. Others include screenings for diabetes, cholesterol, glaucoma, and other cancers such as breast, skin, and colon cancer. However, many people with disabilities may miss out on these important procedures, according to the American Association on Health and Disability. This could be due to many factors, including:
- Individuals may not be aware of the need for screenings,
- Practitioners may not be knowledgeable about disabilities and how they may impact general health,
- Facilities and equipment may not be accessible,
- Practitioners and their patients may focus on addressing a disability or chronic condition, missing other health factors.
If you are a person with a disability, or provide support for a family member with a disability, educate yourself about routine health screenings. Bring information with you to appointments and ask questions. These resources from the NIDILRR community may be helpful:
- Women Be Healthy features information and resources about women’s health screenings, design for women with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their supports, and their healthcare providers
- The Spaulding-Harvard and New England Regional Model Spinal Cord Injury Centers offer a Knowledge In Motion series featuring a range of topics in healthcare and spinal cord injury
- Our Research In Focus series highlighted findings from the New England Regional Model SCI Center on what people with SCI need to know to navigate the healthcare system. The advice the participants shared could be helpful to many people with disabilities and chronic conditions.
- The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Psychiatric Disabilities and Co-Occurring Disorders has many tools to help people with disabilities and practitioners focus on wellness, including a diabetes toolkit, smoking cessation tools, and a health passport.
Learn more about different health screenings for every age from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and Healthfinder.gov.
If you are a healthcare provider, take the time to talk to your clients with disabilities about routine health screenings. The resources above may be helpful. If you are concerned about the accessibility of your facilities and services, check out the following resources from the NIDILRR community and elsewhere.
- The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Community Living at the University of Kansas has several resources to help practitioners make their practice both physically accessible and personally welcoming to patients with disabilities.
- The ADA National Network can assist practice managers in understanding and fulfilling their responsibilities for access to buildings, rooms, and equipment.
If you are interested in research articles and other publications on accessible medical practice, healthcare, and screenings, browse through abstracts from our REHABDATA database: