Cervical Cancer – better informed better protected

According to The Journal of Family Planning the medical profession was delighted at the original increase in uptake of HPV vaccine following the ‘Jade Goody’ effect. “The long-term effect of this is that we should see fewer cancers in young women”, says Mr Patrick Walker, Consultant Gynaecologist at the Royal Free Hospital in London and author of a report on the “Jade Effect” in the April 2010 issue of the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care.

Walker goes on to explain that the introduction of a national screening programme in 1988 meant the rates of cervical cancer fell year on year. But in the last few years, women – particularly young women aged 25–29 years – have been more reluctant to be screened. “In 1998, 80% of those invited for a smear test responded – now the figure is down to 70%”, regrets Walker. “It was a positive outcome of the sad death of Jade Goody that more young women came forward for screening.”

So why did that rise happen – and why the fall thereafter? Walker concludes that young women became more anxious during the media attention surrounding Jade's illness, but “while this anxiety undoubtedly made them go for screening, scaring people isn't a long-term solution”. Susan Quilliam, author and advocate for cervical cancer issues, adds: “The test is simple, straightforward and can identify women who are vulnerable to cervical problems. We shouldn't need to be scared into having one – we should rush to be screened!”

Is there a long-term solution? The good news medically is the recent introduction of a vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that is the main cause of cervical cancer. Patrick Walker is convinced this will help: "Hopefully, the next generation of women will not only be better protected, but also better informed about HPV and cervical cancer risks”.

Miss Adeola Olaitan has prepared in-depth, plain English information for anyone seeking the latest expert advice which can be accessed here.

Abnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary
Relating either to the cervix (the neck of the womb) or to the cervical vertebrae in the neck (cervical spine). Full medical glossary
The basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. Full medical glossary
An abbreviation for human papilloma virus, a sexually transmitted virus that can cause genital warts and may also have a role in the development of various cancers. Full medical glossary
A non-cancerous growth that resembles a wart. Full medical glossary
per vaginam Full medical glossary
A way to identify people who may have a certain condition, among a group of people who may or may not seem to Full medical glossary
The means of producing immunity by stimulating the formation of antibodies. Full medical glossary
A microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. Full medical glossary