1 June 2012
New study reveals extent of Jade Goody effect on cervical screening
Three years ago, Jade Goody died of cervical cancer. A new study, published today in the Journal of Medical Screening, has confirmed that more than 400,000 extra cervical screening appointment attendances were recorded in England between mid-2008 and mid-2009 - the period during which Jade Goody was diagnosed and died of cervical cancer.
An increase in screening attendances was observed at all ages, though the magnitude was greater for women aged under 50.
For the 25-29 age group, there were an estimated 31,000 extra screening attendances over five months between autumn 2008 and spring 2009. This could be because the women who were closest to Jade Goody in age or circumstances, that is younger women with young families, were those most affected by her experience.
Although there was concern that the increased attendances might have been from the 'worried well' coming back for an early repeat screen, the research found that the opposite was true. A higher proportion of the attendances were among women who were late for their test, rather than women who were coming back early. In the 25-49 age group, a substantially greater proportion of these extra attendances occurred in women whose attendance was overdue. 82,000 (28%) occurred at five years or more since the previous test, while only 7,500 (8%) occurred early, the women having already been screened in the past three years.
The pattern of increased attendance mirrored the pattern of media coverage of Jade Goody's diagnosis and death. It is likely that the increased screening resulted in a significant number of lives saved. While cervical screening is not a test for cancer, it is a method of preventing cancer by detecting and treating abnormalities which, if left untreated, could lead to cancer in a woman's cervix (the neck of the womb).
Professor Julietta Patnick, Director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, and author of the paper, commented;
"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 2008/2009. Many of those women will now be due their next routine appointment and we would like to see them return.
"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.
"It is important to remember that cervical screening is aimed at women without symptoms. The symptoms of cervical cancer to look out for include bleeding between periods. Women of any age with symptoms should contact their GP or genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinic, who will refer them to see an expert in hospital."
Notes for editors
The impact of Jade Goody's diagnosis and death on the NHS Cervical Screening Programme by L Lancucki, P Sasieni, J Patnick, TJ Day and MP Vessey, will be published online at 00.01 hrs on Friday 1 June 2012 by the Journal of Medical Screening (JMS). Please make sure you mention or link to the journal in your piece.
The Journal of Medical Screening is published by RSM Press on behalf of the Medical Screening Society. Offering essential information about screening, epidemiology and public health, its editor is Professor Nicholas Wald.
About the NHS Cervical Screening Programme (NHSCSP)
For further information or a copy of the paper please contact the NHS Cancer Screening Programme press office on 0207 400 4499 or e-mail email@example.com.
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