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1 June 2012, 07:55
More than 400,000 women had screenings for cervical cancer during the period in which Essex's Jade Goody was diagnosed and died of the disease, a study has revealed.
The extra cervical screening appointment attendances were recorded in England between mid-2008 and mid-2009, according to the research published in the Journal of Medical Screening.
It concluded that the increased screenings due to the "Jade Goody effect'' 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 study showed that in the 25 to 49 age group, 82,000 (28%) of the extra attendances occurred in women who were overdue for their test.
An increase in attending smear tests was observed at all ages, though the magnitude was greater for women under 50.
It showed there were an estimated 31,000 extra screening attendances over a five-month period in women aged 25 to 29, possibly because these women were closest in age to Goody, who died in March 2009 aged 27, and were therefore 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 as a higher proportion of the attendances were among women who were late for their test, rather than women who were coming back early.
Professor Julietta Patnick, director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes and author of the paper, said: "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.''
But earlier this year experts warned that the "Jade Goody effect'' appears to have been short-lived as after the initial upsurge in screenings, figures have dropped.
According to The Eve Appeal, a charity dedicated to better detection and improved treatment of gynaecological cancers, more than 30% of women under 35 are not now attending screenings.