I want to be clear at the outset: I’m not angry with Jade Goody.
I think we’ve all heard the news that Jade Goody has been given only weeks to live, after her cervical cancer was diagnosed as terminal. It’s very sad. It’s hard to avoid knowing this as it’s been made news by all the mainstream newspapers, who this week published her story on their front page.
Why is this story front page news?
Cervical cancer has been struggling, like ovarian cancer, to be given the profile that breast cancer has. And the reason it hasn’t until now is because the number of women diagnosed each year is not in the tens of thousands like breast cancer. Therefore it does not attract the same level of government funding, charity funding and fundraising, magazine coverage and corporate sponsorship.
What makes me angry is how the British Government has suddenly decided to pour more money into cervical cancer screening. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Why does it take a celebrity to raise the profile of this disease and ‘force’ the Government to act? Are celebrities becoming more influential than patient voices? Answer yes, especially when that patient is a celebrity.
You may be saying, ‘well what’s wrong with that? At least some action is being taken’. But what about the other cancers that don’t have celebrity names attached to them, like ovarian cancer. 7,000 women are diagnosed per year, with a pitiful 5 year survival rate, yet because no big name is prepared to speak out about her experience, ovarian cancer does not attract the funding other more high profile cancers do.
The profile of cervical cancer just got a shot in the arm because Jade Goody has sold her story and wedding to the papers, and she’s done that because she’s hired an expensive PR agent.
What about the women who don’t have PR agents? What’s the vehicle for their story?