Objectives: In August 2008 the British reality TV star Jade Goody made public her diagnosis of cervical cancer. In February 2009 it was announced that she was terminally ill and she died a few weeks later. A surge in cervical screening attendances associated with these events was widely reported. This paper aims to quantify the size of that effect across England, its duration, and whether it affected some groups of women more than others.
Setting: The Cervical Screening Programme in England.
Methods: Routinely collected statistics for the months around Jade Goody's diagnosis and death were compared with those for other periods.
Results: About half a million extra cervical screening attendances occurred in England between mid-2008 and mid-2009, the period during which Jade Goody was diagnosed and died; among these were 370 attendances where the test result was suspected neoplasia. At its peak in March 2009, attendance was 70% higher than expected. Increases were seen in both initial and follow-up screening attendances and in colposcopy attendances, and at all ages, though the magnitude was greater for women aged under 50. A substantially greater proportion of the extra attendances of women aged 25-49 on routine recall occurred in women whose attendance was overdue (28% occurred at 60 months or more) and relatively little represented over-screening (8% had been screened within the last 30 months).
Conclusions: The pattern of increased attendance mirrored the pattern of media coverage of Jade Goody's diagnosis and death. It is likely that the increased screening resulted in a number of lives saved.