The 'Jade Goody Effect' On Smear Tests Could Be Reignited – But Only If We Stop Shaming Women

Ahead of the final instalment of the Channel 4 documentary, a charity is urging viewers not to shame women who are nervous about cervical screening.

In the decade since Jade Goody died from cervical cancer at the age of 27, the so-called “Jade Goody effect” has worn off.

Attendance for cervical screening (smear tests) is at a 19-year low in England and a 10-year low in Scotland and Wales, according to the charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. More than one in four women in the UK are not attending their appointments when invited.

Yet a Channel 4 documentary about the star’s life looks set to reverse the trend once more. The documentary has chronicled Goody’s rise to fame – including her treatment from the tabloid press and the Celebrity Big Brother race row – but its biggest takeaway is a clear message to women: attending your smear test could save your life.

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is pleased the programme is raising awareness, but ahead of the final instalment, the charity is urging viewers to be sensitive about the language they use when talking about cervical screening.

Women should not be called “stupid” or shamed for missing screening due to fears, misunderstanding or past trauma, the charity says. Instead, we must empower one another.


“We are asking those watching the programme to be sensitive to the fact that while for many it is a straightforward test, for others cervical screening can be difficult,” said Kate Sanger, head of communications at the charity.

“This can include survivors of sexual violence, women with conditions such as vaginismus and those who are affected by anxiety or PTSD.”

No one should be called “silly” for having questions, concerns or fears about cervical screening, she said, adding: “There shouldn’t be any blaming or shaming involved. So let’s be kind and mindful with our words and create a space online where people can do that.”

Goody “undoubtedly saved lives” by raising awareness of the disease, Sanger said. Following her death, 400,000 more women booked cervical screening appointments than before.

The documentary has already inspired some women to attend appointments.

Others on social media have renewed calls for women to attend cervical screening. Sanger supports this, but also urges sensitivity.

“The episode this Wednesday will be a new story for a younger generation and for others it will be a reminder about the impact cervical cancer can have,” she said.

“We must remember that for some people it will be upsetting – especially those who have lost loved ones to cervical cancer and for those living with or beyond diagnosis.”

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is also calling for women to help one another when it comes to cervical screening.

“We want to see conversations which support, rather than alienate, so that everyone feels able to make a decision which is right for them,” says Sanger.

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Misconceptions and embarrassment cause many women to delay cervical screening, but the test can help doctors detect abnormal cells in your cervix that may develop into cervical cancer. Detecting these cells early enables you to access treatment as soon as possible.

If you’re nervous about a test, read about my first experience of cervical screening here. The charity My Body Back supports women who have experienced sexual assault to access cervical screening, while more resources and advice are available from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.

The final episode of Jade: The Reality Star Who Changed Britain airs on Channel 4 on Wednesday 21st August at 9pm, and will be available on All 4.