The spike in women having cervical smear tests following Jade Goody's death from the disease, has almost been reversed just three years after she passed away.
Former reality TV star Jade died of cervical cancer aged just 27 on Mother’s Day in 2009.
After she was diagnosed with the disease, Jade spread awareness about the importance of cervical smear tests by publicly documenting her battle with cancer.
During this time and following her death, experts recorded a huge spike in young women booking smear tests with experts claiming Jade’s plight encouraged women to face their fears and be aware of the facts around cervical cancer. Charities also believed that 'The Jade Effect' appealed to the age group who are most hesitant in having smear tests.
Over a quarter of a million women were prompted to have a cervical smear test following Jade’s death in 2009, with over 32,000 people logging onto the Cancer Research UK's cervical cancer section compared to 2,000 prior to her diagnosis.
However, just three years after Jade’s death, one in five British women are risking their health by not having a smear test, according to research by the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes.
The UK’s NHS cervical screening programmes help save around 5,000 lives a year through early detection of cervical cancer. However, recent figures show that women are ignoring smear test invitations from their GP, with women under 35 having the worst attendance record.
Previous research by Bupa found that a third of women in the UK have never had a smear test.
Robert Music, director of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said in a statement: “A downward trend is emerging which we need to reverse. Thousands of women are potentially at risk. Screening picks up abnormalities, which can develop into cervical cancer. As coverage falls, we are likely to see cases of cervical cancer rise.
“We of course want all women to take up their screening invitation when it arrives. But we need to urge and ensure that those women who, as a result of Jade Goody’s high-profile struggle with the disease went for screening three years ago and are likely to shortly receive their next three-yearly routine appointment to not to ignore that letter.
“With around 37% of women aged 25-29 not being tested for more than three years what is particularly worrying is that recent research showed cervical cancer rates among women in their 20s has risen sharply, despite the overall incidence of cervical cancer dropping.
“And after seeing screening coverage last year fall below 80% in women over 50 for the first time in ten years, in the latest figures that number has dropped again.”
Talking to Sky News, Jade’s friend and business partner Julie Morris said Jade would be devastated if she knew fewer women were having smear tests.
“She really wanted to make an impact with everyone else’s life. She told everyone that when you are told to do this, do it, as doctors aren’t writing pen on paper for no reason. You must go when they tell you to.”
Juliette Patnick from the NHS Screening Programmes added: "In the developing world cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women.In this country it isn't as we can control it with cervical screening so I would say to women, take control, get yourself screened, then if we find something small we can treat it easily before it turns into cancer."
If you’re worried about having a smear test, follow the following advice by Dr Katrina Herren, from Bupa, on what to expect at a smear test and what will happen next.
A cervical screening is a simple procedure carried out by a doctor or qualified nurse which can detect pre-cancerous cells inside the cervix which can develop into cervical cancer. Early detection of changes to cervical cells is vitally important in minimising the impact of the disease, which is why all women over the age of 25 are encouraged to have cervical screens.
A cervical screening test usually takes just a few minutes. You will be asked to undress from the waist down - you will be given a towel to put across your lap - and lie on your back on a couch, with your legs drawn up and knees apart. If this position is difficult for you to get into, your nurse or GP can take the test with you lying on your side. You may find the test uncomfortable but it isn't usually painful. Your nurse or GP will use an instrument called a speculum to gently open the vagina and take a cell sample from your cervix using a small brush. The sample will be sent to a laboratory for testing and you will receive the results in a letter a few weeks late
Women aged 25 and over are advised to have cervical screenings at least once every three years to detect changes to the cells in the cervix, according to the NHS. As women get older this may change to once every five years.
Around nine out of 10 cervical screening results are classed as 'normal'. About five in 100 tests show borderline or mild cell changes; these usually go back to normal by themselves and this will be monitored with further screening every six months. One in 100 tests shows moderate cell changes and one in 200 shows severe changes, which means further investigations will be required and treatment needed to remove the cells. Sometimes the result may be 'inadequate' or 'unsatisfactory' because the sample was not good enough or the cells could not be seen clearly, for example, because of an infection. This happens in about one in every four tests. If this happens, another test will be scheduled.
In the case of an abnormal screening result, or symptoms of cervical cancer, your doctor will refer you to a gynaecologist for further tests to more closely examine the surface of the cervix, to see if the abnormal cells have spread and check your health. The type of treatment you might need will depend on the results of the examinations and your general health. Your GP or nurse may ask you to have a colposcopy if your cervical screening results were abnormal. In a colposcopy, your doctor will use an instrument called a colposcope to examine your cervix. A colposcope acts like a magnifying glass, which helps your doctor or nurse to see the cells of your cervix in detail and close up. If your doctor or nurse sees anything that looks abnormal, a biopsy will be taken and the cells sent to a laboratory to be checked. You may be given a local anaesthetic to numb the area before the biopsy is taken. If no abnormal cells are found, you won't need any treatment. If your doctor or nurse finds abnormal cells, you may be given treatment there and then to remove the cells before they can develop into cervical cancer. Alternatively, your doctor or nurse may ask you to come back for treatment at another appointment. The most common type of treatment is LLETZ. Your doctor or nurse will inject a local anaesthetic into your cervix. This will numb the area so you won't feel any pain. Some women may notice a stinging sensation when the anaesthetic is injected - this settles down very quickly. A loop of fine wire with an electric current flowing through it is used to remove the abnormal cells from your cervix. This takes around five to 10 minutes. Another type of investigation that may be undertaken when abnormal cells have been detected is a cone biopsy, where a small, cone-shaped section of abnormal tissue is taken from your cervix and is examined under a microscope. This is usually done under local anaesthetic. A cone biopsy may also be used as a treatment to remove pre-cancerous cells.