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Celebrity illnesses raise awareness

More members of the public are encouraged to take part in screening programmes when there has been media coverage of celebrity illnesses, according to an academic study.

Coverage of the late Big Brother star Jade Goody's battle against cervical cancer was studied by a team of researchers from the University of Warwick.

Cervical cancer screening figures and attempts to prevent the disease were studied by researchers from the Warwick Medical School, who looked at the coverage of Goody's illness, from her diagnosis in 2008 to shortly after her death in March 2009.

There was a climb of around 100,000 in 2009 in the NHS Cervical Screening Programme, according to the study published in the Journal of Public Health.

The year-on-year increase in the take-up in screening among those aged 25-64 - from 77.85% in 2008 to 78.94% in 2009 - reversed a downward trend stretching back to 2002.

One of the report's authors, David Metcalfe, said: "Although this percentage increase in screening figures appears to be quite modest, millions of screenings take place so we are actually looking at an increase of around 100,000 screenings.

"The reversal of the downward trend is the most significant element as figures had been steadily falling since 2002.

"Our study suggests that Jade Goody's diagnosis and death led to an increase in the number of people looking for information about cervical cancer and screening."

Copyright © Press Association 2010

Journal of Public Health

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"I completely agree with the findings of this study. The age range of my practice is predominantly between 20 and 40, the number of cervical screenings performed within my practice rose dramatically last year, and are only just beginning to tail off" - Hazel Reece, Wiltshire

"Yes, I agree with above comment; here in Ireland it got women talking and attending for smears, as such a young person's death frightened them, also our screening programme only started in 2008 so I feel it really made women more willing  to attend for a smear when they were invited" - Winnie McCabe, Ireland

"It is true as a practice nurse I was doing about 60-70 smears a week during that period, even under aged girls were coming requesting to be smeared, celebrity illness increases awareness of the disease at that particular time but when it dies down people relapse again" - M Anyassor, London

"I think reminders should be sent to all women for their next date of appointment for screening and the results should be given or send to them. It seems some clinics do not give out the results while some do it. Leaflets, posters and media advertisement might also help" - Maryam Omitogun, Surrey