Jade Goody's cancer almost certainly incurable

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The Independent Online

Big Brother star Jade Goody faces the tough reality that her cancer is now almost certainly incurable.

News that her cervical cancer has spread to her liver, bowel and groin will come as a devastating blow to the 27-year-old.

Goody now has metastatic cancer, which occurs when cancer cells spread from the place where the disease started to other parts of the body.

While metastatic cancer can sometimes be controlled with treatment to prolong survival, it is highly unlikely that Jade will ever be free from the disease.

Treatments for metastatic cancer include chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy, surgery and drug treatments, or these in combination.

Goody has stage 4 cervical cancer, which is when the disease is at its most advanced stage and has spread.

Only 15 per cent to 30 per cent of women with stage 4 cervical cancer will live longer than five years.

Martin Ledwick, head of cancer information nurses for Cancer Research UK, said: "When cervical cancer has spread to other parts of the body away from the cervix, particularly if it's in other major organs, then the likelihood of it being cured is very low.

"However, some women may live for some time following treatment.

"It's very difficult to predict who is going to be in that position."

Mr Ledwick said metastatic cancers behaved differently and responded differently, depending on the origin of the cancer.

He added: "The same types of treatment that would possibly have some effect in early stage cervical cancer might be helpful in these circumstances.

"We have to look at how the cancer is affecting the individual person and, with cervical cancer, there are various different treatment options available.

"Sometimes chemotherapy is effective, sometimes radiotherapy is effective and sometimes surgery can be helpful.

"Usually what would happen is that the medical team would see what is causing the biggest problem for the individual."

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women under 35 after breast cancer.

However, the vast majority of cases still occur in older women.

Around 3,000 women are diagnosed with the disease each year in the UK and the prognosis is good if it is caught early.

In addition, around 24,000 women will get smear test results each year showing severely abnormal changes to the cells of their cervix, indicating the likelihood of cancer in the future unless treatment is given.

Signs of cervical cancer can be picked up through smear tests, or the woman may experience symptoms such as bleeding between periods and during sex; or pain or discomfort after or during sex.

Having regular smear tests from a young age will pick up the vast majority of changes to cells before they even get a chance to develop into cancer.

Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by the sexually transmitted infection, human papillomavirus (HPV).

A UK-wide vaccination programme of girls aged 12 and 13 is currently ongoing to protect against HPV.

A catch-up programme for girls up to the age of 18 has also been set up using the vaccine Cervarix.