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I find it hard to believe that it is almost eight years since I joined Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust and to have been able to play a key role in how positively the charity has developed in that time. Our impact is growing year on year and I am so proud that we are able to provide support for more women than ever before. All this is so vital because despite the charity reaching many more people than at any time in its history we have a huge concern around the numbers of women attending cervical screening and if the declining trend continues, the long term risk we may face is greater numbers of women being diagnosed and facing a very uncertain future.
Back in September 2008 when I started at Jo's, Jade Goody had just been diagnosed with cervical cancer and over the following months until her death on Mother's Day in March 2009 her tragic story was covered daily in all forms of the media. It had the most enormous impact on the work of the charity and the direction it needed to go to in order to increase the support it offered and understanding the many barriers to why women weren’t attending screening. Nationally, because of Jade's very public battle with her cancer, we saw a quite extraordinary surge in the numbers of women booking a smear test; in fact 400,000 extra women booked an appointment. And that was amazing because many of those going for screening were those who had previously delayed taking up their test. As a result some were diagnosed with cervical cancer, but because of Jade Goody, for many it meant an early diagnosis, thus less invasive treatments and importantly better long term outcomes. And that is fantastic. Quite simply Jade saved lives.
What is now so sad and worrying, almost eight years later Jade’s legacy seems to be forgotten, with the numbers of women going for their smear test falling so much that they are at pre-Jade levels and at the same time we are seeing greater numbers of women being diagnosed.
Clearly, there is still so much to do to educate the public that cervical cancer is preventable through a five minute test that literally can save a life. But what is also very clear from what our research has shown us is that much greater investment is required to understand how to better engage with the many target groups from a range of ages, to those with a learning disability or from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic group. One cap certainly doesn’t fit all when it comes to getting the message out there about the importance of cervical screening; and Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust is calling for investment to be made as a matter of urgency because if it doesn’t come soon , then things might continue to get worse. And quite simply that mustn't happen and is not acceptable.
Categories: Chief Executive blog