19/03/2012 08:53 GMT | Updated 19/03/2012 09:54 GMT

'Jade Goody Effect' On Cervical Cancer Awareness Wears Off As Smear Test Rates Drop

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.

Cervical Screening: What You Need To Know