What gift could a mother give their children? A news item today recalls the sad story of Jade Goody, a TV reality star and mother of two little boys who died on Mothers Day three years ago aged just 27 years. Jade died of cervical cancer, after ignoring an invitation from the NHS to undertake cervical screening (PAP smear) and delaying seeking medical advice despite some severe symptoms. By the time the cancer was diagnosed, her disease was very advanced and she was given little hope of survival. Jade’s public persona was easy not to like. The press branded her as loud-mouthed, ignorant and racist. But she approached her terminal diagnosis with great courage, determined that other young women would not suffer the same fate and she put a considerable amount of effort into educating women of the importance of cervical screening.
Jade’s efforts paid off, and in the year after her death, cervical screening in the UK, especially in younger women, increased by a staggering 384,000(12%). As is so often the case, celebrity endorsement hit home. Three years on, cervical screening figures are still pretty impressive, with nearly 79% of women undertaking their regular tests as advised. But sadly the peak of 2008/9 has not been repeated and 250,000 less women took up their screening invitation last year. It would appear that the 'goody effect' has worn off.
Hopefully, in the future, thanks to the HPV vaccine, cervical cancer may become a thing of the past, but there are still several generations of women who need regular screening to facilitate early diagnosis, intervention and cure.
Cervical screening is free in the UK, offered to all women aged between 25 and 64. Women of any age with relevant symptoms, will also, of course be tested as needed.
So if you are a Mum who could be at risk of cervical cancer, one of the best gifts you can give your children is to be regularly tested. And if your daughters are eligible, you have a responsibility to ensure they take up their screening invitation when it pops through their letterbox. After all, looking after yourself and keeping your kids healthy must be one of the most important things a mother can do.
Happy Mothers Day!