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The end of the Jade Goody effect: Cervical cancer screening rates hit 10-year-low
09:21 GMT, 11 June 2012
Testing for cervical cancer among women in England has fallen to a 10-year low, with charities blaming the poor figures on the end of the 'Jade Goody effect'.
The reality TV star's death from the disease in 2009 prompted a dramatic surge in the numbers of women who were annually tested for cervical cancer.
But three years on, those numbers have declined sharply.
The 'Jade Goody effect' saw more than 400,000 women in England tested for cervical cancer between mid-2008 and mid-2009
Despite cervical screening saving 5,000 lives every year in the UK, 20 per cent of women are not being tested, according to Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, the UK's only dedicated cervical cancer charity.
The charity said many feel the screening is not necessary or relevant to them, while others are unaware of the causes, symptoms and ways to prevent the cancer.
Some women miss or delay tests because of work commitments, while others book time off work because they are too embarrassed to discuss it with their bosses.
Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust is urging more women to attend screenings.
Robert Music, the trust's director, said: 'Every day eight women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and three lives are lost to the disease. Cervical screening can help reduce these numbers.
'The screening programme saves 5,000 lives each year in the UK yet 20 per cent of women are not attending their cervical screening test. The more we can do to stress the importance of this life-saving test the better.
'With such a worrying decline in numbers our campaign is also targeting key cities where uptake is below the national average.
'Adverts urging eligible women to get screened will adorn buses across London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow and Manchester, reaching a potential 5.5 million people.'
Over the last decade the number of women being tested for the cancer has fallen, despite a dramatic rise in 2009 following the death of Big Brother star Jade Goody from the disease.
Before her death, Jade, pictured with her sons Bobby Jack and Freddie, urged other young women to get tested for the disease
The 'Jade Goody effect' saw more than 400,000 women in England tested for cervical cancer between mid-2008 and mid-2009.
It said a poll, carried out by YouGov, showed that since then numbers have declined.
Now, fewer than 80 per cent of women take up the screening – more than one in five women between the ages of 25 and 64 and one in three under 35 are not being tested.
Women over 50 being screened dropped below 80 per cent for the first time in 2010 and fell even further last year.
Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust said some women found the screening unnecessary or not relevant to them.
Others struggled to understand the information they received and more showed a lack of awareness about the causes, symptoms and ways to prevent cervical cancer.
Work also got in the way of screenings, and a survey found that if doctors were more flexible about appointment times it would encourage women to make screenings more of a priority.
Mr Music said: 'It appears that more and more women every year are putting off getting screened for a multitude of reasons. These women are not getting the right support and information or they are simply not being reached at all.
'This is particularly true of BME (black and minority ethnic) communities, where we see a greater lack of awareness which may lead to fewer numbers being screened compared to white women. This is something that needs to be urgently addressed.
'Another major contributing factor to women not attending is embarrassment and fear of the procedure. We want to reverse this trend by reassuring those who are nervous about the test that it's a simple five minute procedure that could save their life.
'Older eligible women need to be aware that cervical screening is not just for the young and it's worrying to see the figures for uptake are even lower for women over 50.
'It's clear that a job needs to be done for more targeted campaigns to reach individual groups of women with the relevant information and reassurance that will encourage them to attend.'
Cervical cancer is predominantly caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) which can be caught as soon as women start having intimate relationships.