Jade Goody's plight sparks increase in number screened for cancer
THE plight of terminally ill reality television star Jade Goody has been linked with a surge in women being screened for cervical cancer in the Lothians.
Latest figures have shown the number of women attending for a smear test has risen by a third.
Health chiefs in the Lothians have put the increase down to coverage of Ms Goody, who may only have weeks to live after finding out her cervical cancer has spread and is untreatable.
The 27-year-old discovered she had cancer in the middle of last year, while starring on India's version of the programme that made her name – Big Brother. Since then her battle with the disease has been filmed and media coverage of her declining health has been daily.
While it has not sat comfortably with everyone, it seems her decision to allow full coverage of her plight has raised awareness among women across the Lothians.
Since her diagnosis the number of tests has risen by 30 per cent – in the six months up to October 41,677 smears had been carried out, compared with 32,095 for the same time last year. Charities said they too had noticed a rise in inquiries about the disease.
Dr Sue Payne, NHS Lothian's public health consultant, said the increase at the health board's laboratory was largely thanks to Ms Goody. She said: "It is hard to be definitive about why more women are accepting our invitation to attend for cervical screening.
"The media coverage of Jade Goody's illness may have been a factor, as perhaps has been our work with specific GP practices with lower participation rates and the HPV vaccination campaign.
"I would urge all women invited to take part in the programme to do so. If we find a problem early, treatment can be less radical and more successful than if the issue is detected at a later stage. Cervical cancer screening saves lives."
The increase in tests follows a similar public reaction to singer Kylie Minogue's high-profile battle with breast cancer. At that point health chiefs said an increase in breast cancer diagnosis was directly linked to a heightened awareness of screening.
All women aged between 20 and 60 across the Lothians are invited for a test every three years, but take-up over the years has been low, with many women claiming they didn't have time to attend, or that the test itself was too unpleasant.
Experts even said some women would rather not know if they did have a problem, such was the stigma attached to a smear test.
Cancer Research UK said the rise could only be a positive thing, and it had noted an increase in calls to its helpline.
Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of health information, said: "Jade's tragic plight has certainly raised awareness of cervical cancer among the general public, as the number of hits to our website shows. Her legacy may have helped to save lives."
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