Jade Goody's plight prompts rise in cervical screening

In collaboration with the Press Association

The number of women attending cervical screening appointments has risen in England, a trend that is largely being attributed to the so-called 'Jade Goody effect'.

Jade Goody died after a battle with cervical cancer earlier this year and the media coverage is thought to have encouraged many women - particularly young women - to keep their screening appointments.

New figures from the NHS Information Centre show that the number of 25 to 64-year-olds being screened rose by nearly 12 per cent last year, from 3.2 million to 3.6 million.

This is the first increase since 2002 and means that, as of March 31st 2009, 78.9 per cent of eligible women had been screened in the previous five years.

The increase was particularly noticeable among women under the age of 49 years - from 69.3 per cent as of March 31st 2008 to 72.5 per cent in March 2009.

Tim Straughan, chief executive of the NHS Information Centre, commented: "The report shows that just under 400,000 more eligible women underwent cervical screening last year than in the previous year.

"This is a welcome boost in numbers which follows media personality Jade Goody's highly publicised battle with the disease.

"It means more women are now up-to-date with their cervical screening test than last year - the first rise since 2002."

Mr Straughan also noted that women are getting their test results more quickly than before.

More than one in five women (21.4 per cent) received their results within two weeks in 2008/09, up from just 11.1 per cent the previous year.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of health information, agreed that Jade's diagnosis "brought important cervical cancer awareness messages into living rooms across the UK".

"It is gratifying to see that the result of her story that was played out so painfully in public has resulted in so many more women attending cervical screening," she said.

"What happened to Jade has raised awareness of cervical cancer which has led to hundreds of thousands of people contacting Cancer Research UK for information on the disease as the number of hits to our website, www.cancerhelp.org.uk, shows. Her legacy will be to help save lives."

Health secretary Andy Burnham commented: "Jade's bravery and openness in her fight against cervical cancer has brought home to young women across the country the importance of regularly going for these checks.

"As a result, nearly half a million extra women attended cervical screening, which will save the lives of hundreds of women in the years ahead."