‘Jade effect’ on cancer screening loses its impact

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A SURGE in women undergoing cervical cancer screening in the wake of the death of reality television star Jade Goody has ended, campaigners are warning.

It is three years today since Miss Goody died, aged just 27

Girls aged 12-17 are now offered a jab against the human papilloma virus (HPV) which blocks strains most likely to cause cervical cancer in an initiative estimated to save 500 lives a year.

But there is concern many women are ignoring the need to go for regular smear tests, with one in five failing to attend screening, rising to more than a third of those aged under 35.

Robert Music, director of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “As a result of Jade Goody’s very public battle with cervical cancer, there was an upsurge in the numbers of women attending cervical screening, and in 2008 close to 400,000 extra women chose to be tested, an increase of 12 per cent on the previous year.

“This was the first time in a decade that uptake numbers had increased and most medical commentators said this would have undoubtedly saved lives.

“I am concerned at the worrying downward trend we are seeing, with thousands of women ignoring their screening invitation, with coverage for screening close to levels before Jade was diagnosed.”

A survey of 1,400 women in England conducted by The Eve Appeal revealed that the embarrassment factor was partly to blame for falling numbers attending screening.

Robert Marsh, chief executive of the charity, said: “Few people can talk about cervical cancer without mentioning Jade.

“We have to thank Jade’s sad fate for the subsequent spike in numbers of women attending cervical screening. But have we learned enough?

“Almost all cases of cervical cancer can be prevented by screening and HPV vaccination.

“The earlier cervical cancer is diagnosed, the better the outcome will be.”