No one has done more for cervical cancer prevention than Jade Goody. Requests for screening tests have risen by up to 50 per cent in some areas and 10 days ago the Government announced a review of the age at which screening should start. Cervical cancer, which claims over 750 lives a year in England, has not had as much attention for a generation.
As the victim of a preventable medical catastrophe, she wanted others to avoid the fate that had befallen her. So when doctors began to report a surge in demand for cervical smear tests following publicity around her case, she was delighted.
Some of these young women will be the "worried well", fretting unnecessarily about a condition that is still rare in those under 50. But at 27, Goody was in the age group – 25 to 35 – that has proved hardest to reach for screening and among whom uptake has declined over the past decade. If that decline can be reversed, it will be a fitting memorial to a woman whose openness about her own shortcomings encouraged others to confront their problems rather than ignoring them.
Her appeal was across the board but especially strong among young working class women, from backgrounds like her own, who are least likely to attend for screening. Screening rates range as low as 50 per cent in some deprived areas compared with 90 per cent in more prosperous ones.
It is a pity we cannot bottle the "Goody effect".