People in newspapers and on the internet have expressed an extraordinary range of feelings about reality television star Jade Goody and her losing battle against cervical cancer. I don't own a television, and cannot comment about Miss Goody's former career or, but I am filled with admiration for the way she has chosen to spend her last months.
Cervical cancer is a disease that is almost 100 % preventable, but too few women go for smear / PAP tests. (I chose to be vaccinated against the forms of HPV linked to most cases of cervical cancer.) It's also a cancer that until Miss Goody almost no-one spoke about because it's in an 'embarrassing' area.
I was involved with some cervical cancer related projects back in 2005 - a mere four years ago. We couldn't find a single minor celebrity to help the cause. And a very sweet lady at Cancer Research UK told me that they didn't want to get involved in an awareness campaign because it wasn't a 'popular' cancer. Seriously. Statistically 35 to 40 % of women will have a bad PAP / smear test once in their lives due to pre-cancerous cells, but back in 2005 it wasn't a 'fashionable' cancer.
The bottom line is that many women have an issue with their cervix at some point, and each year thousands of women die of cervical cancer - but many of those women pretend to have a more 'acceptable' form of cancer, and family doctors often go along with this charade.
Just by speaking out, admitting to having cervical cancer, and showing women the consequences of not having a test Jade Goody has done more to help women than most women's rights campaigners who work a lifetime.
In the United Kingdom the numbers of women going to their doctors for tests has gone through the roof.
In the US ... I sincerely hope that we don't need to have a celebrity die to get women to go for a PAP, but rather that some movie star steps up to the plate and makes this her cause. It's wonderful to try to help vaccinate people in Africa, but there are also important issues that need to be dealt with in our own back yard - and this is one of them.