Three years after the death of reality TV star Jade Goody, a new study has revealed that her battle with cervical cancer prompted 400,000 British women to book a cervical screening appointment.
The figures, released by the Journal of Medical Screening, confirmed the influence of the ‘Jade Goody Effect’ and discovered that between Jade’s diagnosis and death (2008 to 2009), a huge spike in smear tests and cervical screenings was recorded.
For women aged between 25 and 29, around 31,000 extra screening appointments were made during the last five months of Jade’s public battle with cervical cancer.
Experts believe this age group were most likely to have been affected by Jade's death as the reality star was just 27 when she died.
Under-30s are the age group most hesitant to book a cervical screening test, say experts. Seeing someone so young be stuck down, may have made them aware that cervical cancer doesn't just affect older women.
However, although it was assumed that the increase in screenings was down to women booking early appointments because they were concerned about their health, the research discovered the opposite was true.
A higher proportion of bookings were among women who were late for their test rather than those who were booking them early.
The majority of extra attendances occurred in women aged 25 to 49 who admitted that their screening was overdue – with 82,000 (28%) revealing they were at least five years behind schedule. Only 8% of bookings were early appointments.
"Jade's tragic diagnosis and death played a huge role in raising awareness of cervical cancer and prompted a welcome increase in screening attendances in 2008 and 2009. Many of those women will now be due their next routine appointment and we would like to see them return,” professor Julietta Patnick from the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes and author of the paper, said in a statement.
"All women between the ages of 25 and 64 are eligible for free cervical screening every three to five years. Regular screening means that changes in the cervix, which may develop into cancer can be identified and treated. Screening saves lives, and we would encourage all eligible women to consider attending a screening appointment when invited."
Separate figures released by Cancer Research UK revealed that during Jade’s battle with cancer, over 32,000 people logged into their cervical cancer section of the website compared to 2,000 prior to her diagnosis.
However, despite encouraging thousands of women to book a cervical screening test, it looks like the ‘Jade Goody Effect’ may be wearing off.
Another study discovered that a shocking third of women in the UK have never had a smear test.
Responding to the downward trend of booking a cervical screening test, Robert Music, director of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, urges women not to ignore the routine screening letter from their GP.
“Thousands of women are potentially at risk. Screening picks up abnormalities, which can develop into cervical cancer. 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,” Music told HuffPost Lifestyle.
If you’re worried about booking a smear test, take a look at the following advice from Dr Katrina Herren from Bupa, on what to expect when you have a cervical screening. test