Ten years on from the ‘Jade Goody effect’ smear test rates are at a 20 year low in the UK, highlighting the work that still has to be done to increase early detection of cervical cancer.
Today marks 10 years since reality TV personality Jade Goody passed away after battling cervical cancer. Jade was just 27 when she died.
After being open to the public about her illness it is estimated 400,000 women around the UK made an appointment to receive a smear test. Before her death, cervical screening rates had been in constant decline.
The sudden surge in uptake was referred to in the media as the ‘Jade Goody effect’, but 10 years after her death cervical screening rates are at a 20 year low.
From 2017 to 2018 more than four million women were invited to attend a smear test in the UK with 71.4% of eligible women screened.
The main concerns centre around 25 – 29 year olds where early detection and prevention could save thousands of lives.
What is a smear?
A smear test, officially called a cervical screening test, is a test to make sure there are no abnormal cells in your cervix, the area between your vagina and your womb.
The test takes five minutes and depending on your age you will be asked to attend every three to five years.
The test itself involves a nurse scraping a small cell sample from the wall of your cervix. This can be uncomfortable but usually isn’t painful.
When we hear the word smear most women think about cervical cancer, but the test does more than check for HPV. It checks for abnormal cells and changes in the cervix that could lead to cervical cancer or other illnesses.
Many women avoid the test because they feel it is embarrassing, uncomfortable or not necessary. This simple, painless test saves lives and takes less time than going to get a cup of coffee or doing the perfect winged eyeliner (way less time).
Over the last 10 years organisations like Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust have worked to raise awareness of just how important smear tests are.
Most recognisably they have worked on the #SmearforSmear campaign where women post a photo of themselves with smeared lipstick to promote the importance of cervical screenings.
Smear tests can prevent cervical cancer and attendance is at an all time low!! If you are overdue your appointment – get one booked in ASAP.
It takes less than 2 minutes and could save your life ladies ❤️🍑 pic.twitter.com/NKrLEhPlgC
— Rhian Sugden (@Rhianmarie) February 3, 2019
In 2019 more women, especially young women aged 25 – 29, need to attend their smear test.
Every year since the test was introduced cervical cancer rates have dropped by 7%. Without more eligible women attending their screening this rate will decline.
This month the first ever TV campaign urging women to attend cervical screening tests was launched by NHS England and they will now trial at-home smear tests in the UK for the first time.