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The challenges of cancer and disability study

For cancer services to be truly inclusive, they need to be relevant and patient centred, considering the needs of people with disabilities.

The aim of this project was to explore the experiences of adults with pre-existing physical disabilities, who have been diagnosed with and treated for a potentially curable cancer, to gain an understanding of their needs and how these could inform and shape cancer care practice.


The findings illustrate that people with physical disabilities face a variety of barriers in accessing cancer services. The overall theme that emerged was that participants experienced a lack of preparation from healthcare professionals and healthcare facilities to respond to their needs. The findings suggest that the mere existence of services does not guarantee their usability. Services need to be relevant, flexible, and accessible, and offered in a respectful manner. Necessary steps to be taken include better communication between the various professionals involved in patients’ care and raising awareness of how physical disability can interact with cancer-related treatment.

The resource we developed seeks to address some of the barriers reported by asking healthcare professionals to consider people’s pre-existing impairment and take into account any impairment-specific needs.


Sakellariou, al. 2019. Barriers to accessing cancer services for adults with physical disabilities in England and Wales: an interview-based study. BMJ Open 9(6), article number: e027555. (10.1136/bmjopen-2018-027555)

Edwards, D., Sakellariou, D. and Anstey, S. 2020. Barriers to, and facilitators of, access to cancer services and experiences of cancer care for adults with a physical disability: a mixed methods systematic review. Disability and Health Journal 13(1), article number: 100844. (10.1016/j.dhjo.2019.100844)

Sakellariou, al. 2020. Pathways of disability-based discrimination in cancer care. Critical Public Health 30(5), pp. 533-543. (10.1080/09581596.2019.1648762)

Sakellariou, D. and Rotarou, E. S. 2020. Cancer disparities for people With disabilities: bridging the gap. Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network 18(8), pp. 1144-1146. (10.6004/jnccn.2020.7614)


This project was funded by Tenovus Cancer Care.

Lead researcher

Dr Dikaios Sakellariou

Dr Dikaios Sakellariou

Reader: Disability Studies and Occupational Therapy

+44 (0)29 206 87744

Research theme

Woman at whiteboard

Optimising service delivery and organisation

Our research provides evidence about current and new ways of organising and delivering services to meet complex health and social care demands.