On 22nd March 2009, reality TV personality star Jade Goody sadly passed away from her battle with cervical cancer. You might be too young to remember Jade Goody, you might have disliked her when she was in the spotlight or you might not have many opinions of her at all. But one thing you should know about Jade Goody, is the legacy she left behind.

Since I had my first cervical screening in 2017, which revealed I had slightly abnormal cells and the HPV virus, I’ve found myself as a bit of an advocate for cervical screenings. I’ve covered my first test on my blog here, as well as what happened when I went for a colposcopy and also some tips to help those who are nervous about attending their first screening.

And recently I’ve found myself thinking about Jade Goody a lot, after watching an hour long documentary I found on YouTube about the year following her death in 2009. The documentary shares unseen footage of Jade and her family, as well as speaks to her Mum, friends and ex-partner about Jade’s life, death, funeral and the awful disease that eventually killed her.

Cervical screenings are available to women ages 25 and over in England (the age is lower in Scotland and Wales) and is completely free and available on the NHS. It’s a quick test, which takes on average 10 minutes from entering your doctors office, to leaving again and in my experience, wasn’t painful or embarrassing. Albeit slightly uncomfortable and an odd sensation.

In 2008 and 2009 – the prime years that Jade Goody made her diagnosis and illness public – cervical screening numbers increased in women aged 25-64 by 400,000. Four hundred THOUSAND. And was more prevalent in younger women (a report from the NHS Information Centre revealed). The Jade Goody effect was in full swing and her tragic story may have saved thousands of others from going through the same thing.

But now, 10 years on, cervical screening attendance is at an all time low. But why?

This scares me. Really scares me. Such a simple test could, quite literally, save your life. And I’m not trying to scare-monger here, I’m just stating a fact. Most of the time, you’ll never know that you have abnormal cells on your cervix. I definitely didn’t. Sometimes they’ll go away on their own but sometimes they won’t and that’s where we need cervical screenings more than ever.

I did some of my own research on Twitter (super reliable, I know!) in the form of polls, just because I was curious about some of the statistics and here’s what I found:

I was a little surprised by some of these results. Not so much by others. It’s a little worrying that 23% of women put off booking their appointment for longer than 3 months after receiving their letter but also encouraging to see that 73% of women aren’t putting off going for any reason. However that does mean out of 109 people, roughly 29 people are putting it off. And if the final poll is correct and that 95% of women either fully or mostly understand what a cervical screening is looking for, then why are we still putting it off?

Embarrassment

I think this is probably one of the biggest reasons that women put off going and it’s not totally unreasonable. Thankfully (probably the wrong word) I’ve visited the doctors and sexual health clinics a number of times in the past, so getting my fanny out really was no big deal but I understand that that’s not the case for everyone. The main thing to remember is that the doctor or nurse doing your test doesn’t give a hoot about what your hoo-har looks like. They’re just glad that you’re there.

Worry about whether it will hurt

Again, another reasonable request. Nobody likes the though of a plastic duck beak looking object going up your minge. For most women, a cervical screening won’t hurt. For me personally, it didn’t hurt and the NHS will say that it shouldn’t hurt but may feel uncomfortable. There will be exceptions to this of course but 1 or 2 minutes of discomfort could save you years of pain. You can also ask for a smaller speculum (that’s the duck beak thing I was referring to) which should ease some worry about this.

Nerves over your results

Another totally reasonable thing to worry about. This was the part that I hated the most and waiting for any kind of results is horribly nerve wracking. My advice for this would be to treat yourself after your examination, make plans for the following week and try and put it out of your mind. Then when your results come through, if they do find anything, do not panic. Read the information carefully before jumping to conclusions. They often provide booklets with information, which can look scary until you actually digest the information and what they’re telling you.

As sad as it is, I think the fact that we don’t have a public figure in the limelight who’s going through what we all so desperately don’t want to go through means a lot of people haven’t got that boost behind them urging them to go. It’s so easy to just brush it under the rug and think, “well I haven’t got any symptoms so I don’t need to worry” when that’s an incredibly dangerous attitude to have.

I like to try and be as neutral as possible in these sort of posts. I can’t force anyone to have their cervical screening and I hate scare-mongering with a passion. But I can try and educate and share my experience, my findings and hopefully a little advice for anyone in a position where they feel they could benefit from it.

If you’re putting yours off, are overdue or know you have one coming up soon and are nervous about it, I hope you found this post helpful and encouraging. And hopefully in the coming months or years we can revive Jade Goody’s legacy.

Have you been for your cervical screening if you’re due one? Are you putting it off for any reason? What are your thoughts on the screening age here in England? Let’s start a healthy discussion and do our bit to make cervical screenings more normal and less taboo.

68 Comments

  1. I think it’s really important and I also think it so admirable that you are advocating the way you do. Thank you for sharing and educating me more on this matter.

  2. Such an informative post. I would say that the importance of the text isn’t made strong enough, and it is perceived as embarrassing. In Germany, to get the pill you need to have it every year. It’s normal here and spoken about so people don’t mind doing it.

  3. Well done for raising awareness again and reminding women to get booked in! I’m not yet 25 so haven’t been offered an appointment although I’ll turn 25 in May! I’m pregnant now and I think it was mentioned that I can get one done soon 🙂

    Lozza
    http://girlygabble.com

    1. Ah that’s good! I got my letter when I was 24 and a half but I’m sure you could just ring up and book as soon as you’re 25 😌 Can you have them done when you’re pregnant? Would that affect the results in any way?

  4. The all time low stats on this really scare me too. I’m not at cervical screening age yet but despite the natural hesitation and knowing its not going to be the most fun I’ve ever had, I’m definitely going! This is such an important topic, thank you for being so open in discussing it
    Soph – https://sophhearts.com x

  5. I think it’s really wonderful that you have done this blog post sweetheart and raised awareness, it’s such a well-written post. Too many people ignore their smear tests these days and it’s so important to be checked! As someone who has lost too people loved people to cancer, thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this darling. 🌸💜

    With love, Alisha Valerie x | alishavalerie.com

  6. Great post! I’m still waiting for my letter, I’ll be 24 and a half in April so hopefully I’ll receive it soon. I am quite nervous about it, but I’ve read so many bloggers stories about it that it’s putting me at ease. I would much rather check and make sure everything is alright rather than leaving it because of embarrassment or pain!

    Chloe xx
    http://www.chloechats.com

  7. This is such an important topic Jenny and I have a strong memory of Jade Goody and what happened to her. So when I got my first screening letter I didn’t hesitate and booked it straight away and, it was awful. The bad experience I had ended up with me putting of my next screening test for nearly 3 years after receiving the letter! Which I’m not proud of. The 1st test was painful, the nurse didn’t make me feel relaxed or explain the procedure well and it hurt. I wouldn’t say I felt violated but I didn’t feel right aftwrwards. Thankfully my 2nd screening (last month) was a much better experience. The nurse was friendly, had a bit of a joke with me and made me feel at ease. I was very relaxed and there was no pain. That was a long comment! 😅 Thank you for talking about this issue and have an open channel to discuss it and bring awareness to it.

    1. It can have a huge impact on your nurse or doctor for sure! I’m sorry to hear your first one didn’t go well but I’m VERY glad to hear you’ve now had your next one and the experience was much more pleasant 😌

  8. I have to admit I put mine off for ages because of going travelling. I thought if I get one done now and I have to have a follow up, how could I do that when I’ve flown to the other side of the world for a few months? What if I find out something’s wrong when I’m thousands of miles from home? It’s stupid really. And now I’ve moved to Edinburgh and haven’t registered with a doctor yet! But as soon as I do, this’ll be the first appointment I make. Thanks for sharing this, it really is so important.

  9. I really remember all of the things about Jade Goody because she did it so publicly! I remember looking at her wedding photos in a magazine and. bit alter her funeral photos in the same magazine. Even if people don’t know who she is she has had a massive effect on all of the world of smear tests. Great post!x

  10. I recently went for my first screening (can read about it on my blog) bu I really do not understand why I was so nervous. I also can not understand why we are at such a low for people to be having them, maybe the anniversary of Jade will give women the push to go and book themselves in!

    Abigail-xo

  11. I am so, so happy that more bloggers are sharing their experiences and talking about cervical screenings!!! I know it’s a tad different but one of the main reasons I talk about my IBD is because I’m SURE one of my family members has it too (he obviously has it mild but I’m sure it must have been where I got the gene from) but he refuses to have the colonoscopy to get diagnosed because of embarrassment and fear of pain when the disease could eventually kill him which is pretty terrifying. I don’t understand how people are more scared of 10 minutes of discomfort compared to possible undetected development of something so serious. I’ve still got another 2 and a bit years until I’m 25 and I know I’ll be nervous but there’s no way I’ll be putting it off. It’s just a vagina! Or as you call it a minge, fanny or hoo-har (which also made me proper laugh 😂). It’s unlikely in this day and age that at 25 you haven’t had something put up there, too… Great post, Jenny!
    Alice Xx

    1. That’s so scary about your family member. It’s such a shame that’s how he feels. Hopefully one day he’ll feel brave enough to have the tests done. I’m glad you liked hoo-har haha! It’s no more invasive than you know… sex…?! xxxx

  12. I had my first ever test a couple of months ago and it’s honestly so good to have that peace of mind of knowing I’ve had it done, the reason I put it off was because of the embarrassment of baring my bits to a nurse, but think of it like this, they’ve seen dozens of vaginas before, so what’s so different about her seeing yours?! x

    Lucy | http://www.lucymary.co.uk

  13. I’m 24 and received my letter a few months ago and instantly booked it. I’ve had it done and awaiting the results. For me, it’s a little uncomfortable but for all of two minutes and if that can save your life then it is a no brainer. I did ask the nurse why I had received mine early and she said the NHS are trying to get more people to do the screening. For me social media has a negative connotation on cervical screenings and it puts people off. I’m all for it and I wish people would put there fears aside and get it done. Great post xo

    1. I received my letter when I was 24 and a half too but couldn’t actually get it done until I was 25. But I had my test booked about 3 months in advance! I’m glad you went to get yours done and good luck with the results! I think social media can do really good and really bad. There’s an awful lot of scaremongering about when really you need to listen to your doctors and nurses and that’s it.

  14. I love that you are raising awareness about this important topic, for me it was the idea of being examined, but I had a health scare and realised that a couple minutes of being uncomfortable is better than anything. So I make sure I’m not missing any screenings from now on x

  15. This is such an important topic and it’s great that you’re so openly discussing it which I’m sure as a result will help others feel more comfortable about having their screenings done too. I am still not at the age requirement but I will 100% get my screenings done when the time comes. Really informative and well explained.

  16. I’ve had one and it certainly wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences – I seemed to have a bit of a reaction afterwards. But like you said, that ten minutes could literally save your life. Why wouldn’t you go? Obviously everyone has their reasons and some might be very personal, but there are so many people affected by cancer, it just makes sense to me to do everything you can to try and keep yourself safe and well. Excellent post – definitely one that people need to see.

  17. This is such an important post Jenny and major kudos to you for shining light on such a topic as well as incorporating your personal experiences too. It’s a scary and anxiety inducing experience but if it can save you from a bigger problem down the line then it’s worth it. I hope through further education and more normalising of the topic, more women will feel encouraged to get tested. Thanks for sharing as always x

  18. I’m not old enough to have my smear test done yet – but I honestly think it’s the best thing for a woman to have, there should be more done and the age should be lowered for sure! This was a really great post Xx

  19. It’s so great that you’re talking about this! It’s so important, and yet women are often so shy when it comes to talking about their bodies. Though I’m not familiar with Jane Goody, it’s an unfortunate truth that public coverage of disease always seems to act as a catalyst for people to take action. I’m in the US and I had my first screening at 25 (despite being very nervous) and approximately every two years since. It’s not fun, but I always remind myself that cervical cancer would be even less fun.

  20. This is such an important topic, thank you for sharing it. I don’t know if you’re aware if the massive cervical cancer scandal in Ireland (hundreds of woman were given false results, and now have cervical cancer which would have been prevented). A HPV vaccine activitist, who was only 26, Laura Brennan, died the other day. I’m so relieved to have gotten the HPV vaccine in school (and livid at the church for having the audacity to say it’s going to make young girls promiscuous, as if our parents are bad people for wanting to protect us from cancer) but devestated for her, as the vaccine was rolled out to all girls under around 16 in school so she just missed getting it as she was only 4 years older than me. I’m still too young for smear tests but once I’m 25 I’m absolutely gonna get tested as often as possible, because it’s also free here but under 25s have to fight to get tested when they’re worried.

    Ash | thisdreamsalive.wordpress.com

    1. I did not know that about the false results but that is shocking. I’m speechless. And that’s so sad about Laura Brennan too. I had the HPV vaccine when I was in school but sadly still got HPV, so it does help but not always 100% effective unfortunately! So glad to hear nothing is going to stop you getting your tests when you can 💛

  21. I remember watching Jade Goody on Big Brother and also when she became ill. It was quite heartbreaking as she was so young but cancer doesn’t discriminate. At the time it really made women aware of the need to have cervical smears. It is a shame that people seem to have forgotten about her and how important it is to have regular smear tests.

    Sarah 🌺 || Boxnip

  22. I have such a strong memory of Jade Goody and all the talk about something I didn’t understand at all at the time. However I don’t think many people much younger than me will remember her when the time comes for them to get their tests. But that offers zero explanation for why they’re low now. I did put mine off slightly but I know you read my post about that and know my situation is a little more complicated. It never even crossed my mind to not go though. Interesting post and such an important topic x

    Sophie
    http://www.thismonth.co.uk

  23. Thank you for writing this and thank you for being an advocate for women’s health.
    I admire you so much for sharing your story with us <3

    I had my first screening in October 2017 and I can honestly say it was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I was referred to a gyno right then and there. I still haven't heard from this referral and that was nearing two years ago.

    Please keep doing what you are doing! Fight the food fight!

  24. I’m 42 now and obviously had many smear tests, and you know for the peace of mind they give afterwards is priceless. Often I’ve had abnormal cells, been re re, or off for more investigation. But every time I think how lucky we are to have the NHS and to be given this test free. My only bugbear with it is, I’ve lost friends when they were too young to be tested. One was 18 and begged to tested, sadly lost her life.

  25. Another brilliant post Jenny.

    I am guilty of putting off my first one but since my first I go and have my smear at the soonest available appointment from the letter coming in.

    It is terrifying how few people see this as a priority. All for the sake of having to get your fanny out.

    I am sure if we could be tested in another way we’d be all over it. If I could be tested for every type of cancer I’d not hesitate!

    Will be sharing this post x

  26. I’m 22 so know that in a couple of years I’ll be receiving that letter. Am I terrified? Yes… but will I go? Yes. My mum had abnormal cells found and had treatment to remove them. Cancer unfortunately runs in my family as my Uncle has passed away from it as well. It is scary and not very nice but it needs to be done…

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