Jade Goody’s journey with cervical cancer and her death in 2009 led to an incredible increase in awareness of the illness.
The star was most famous for stints on reality shows such as the UK’s 2002 and 2007 seasons of Big Brother along with the 2008 season of India’s local version, Bigg Boss. This was where Jade learnt about her cancer diagnosis live on air, after doctors gave her a screening – otherwise known as a smear test – before she flew out for the show. Following her terminal diagnosis less than six months after she left India, there was a significant increase in the number of women who underwent cervical cancer screenings.
Known as The Jade Goody Effect, researchers believe that this increase mirrored the immense media coverage of Jade’s cancer diagnosis and later death. They say the uptake in screenings led to significantly more diagnoses of early cervical cancer, saving many lives. Attendance for cervical cancer screenings had been at a low before this tragic event.
At the time of Jade’s death, it seemed as though she went from being healthy to extremely unwell in just a short period of time. But shortly before she died, leaving behind young sons Bobby and Freddie, Jade revealed that she’d had symptoms of cervical cancer for three years.
A timeline of how Jade Goody’s cancer developed
Jade has abnormal cells removed from her cervix, at the age of 15.
According to the NHS Cancer Screening Programme, this is incredibly rare. In 2006 only 54 women under the age of 25 died from cervical cancer. In 2016 854 people died from cervical cancer in England.
Symptoms of cervical cancer at a young age could include abnormal bleeding (such as during the menstrual cycle and after sex) and abnormal discharge. However, these symptoms could be caused by a number of things, and don’t necessarily mean you’ve got cervical cancer.
Jade received treatment for a burst ovarian cyst.
At the time, Jade was competing in Five’s TV show, Back To Reality, which saw former reality television stars battle it out to win £75,000 for charity. According to BBC News reports from the time, Jade – who was just 23 at the time – was taken to hospital after collapsing on set. She went through a series of tests and stayed overnight in hospital as a precaution.
Her spokesperson also had to dispel myths that Jade was pregnant at the time with her second child. She said, “She hasn’t fallen pregnant overnight, she’s definitely not.”
Jade and boyfriend Jack Tweed announced Jade was pregnant. But she had a miscarriage at 12-weeks.
Jade said she was losing blood when she went to the toilet – but doctors said she had had another miscarriage.
“The thing is the tumour was so big I had it falling out of me while I was on the loo,” she said later on. “I had black stuff falling out of me. It was like tar. I remember being at the doctor and sobbing, ‘What’s wrong with me?’.”
Just one month before this, Jade had collapsed and was bleeding heavily for the fourth time in four years. She said, “I was doubled over in pain, losing clots of blood again. There was blood all over my bathroom and all over my stairs.
Later, she told Now magazine, “I was on my own and I had to call an ambulance. I was in too much pain to walk down the stairs. I’d get these really bad pains, like really bad period pain. I’d get spasms in my la-la and my stomach.
“They were so severe, I couldn’t walk. I’d be too weak to stand up. Blood would just come out.”
Photographers snap Jade coming out of the doctor’s – she told them she is undergoing tests for cancer.
Jade went to hospital after collapsing and losing blood. She was kept in while experts tried to find the cause and she revealed it was the fourth time this had happened over 4 years.
Later the same month, two days after entering the local Indian version of Big Brother, Jade was called into the Diary Room and told she had cervical cancer.
Jade revealed that she had had abnormal cells removed from her cervix three times in the past. She also admitted to Heat magazine that she ignored a letter about abnormal results from a smear test because she was scared about going to the hospital again.
“When I heard I had more abnormal cells I thought, ‘this is the fourth time I’ve been told I need to have the same operation now,'” she said.
“Once you have them burnt off they shouldn’t come back, I was too scared.”
The NHS Cancer Screening Programme says: An abnormality in a smear test doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got cancer, sometimes it just means you’ve got an abnormality that can go away on its own. Abnormalities have 4 levels and doctors can treat even the most serious before cells become cancerous.
If you get an abnormal result from a smear test it is essential you go back to your hospital.
On September 1, news outlets reported that Jade’s cancer was now “advanced and life threatening”. She would go on to have a surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy, at which time the doctors gave her a 65% chance of survival.
Her publicist said the procedures, which included a hysterectomy “went well”. Although in an interview with Irish broadcaster RTÉ, Jade said that she had begun to plan her funeral and was losing her hair. She also confirmed that she had decided not to tell her children, aged just 4 and 5 at the time, about her illness.
Jade experienced more stomach pains and had to pull out of a pantomime for emergency kidney blockage treatment. She discharged herself from hospital, but went back in after becoming ill and collapsing.
She told Philip Schofield on This Morning shortly afterwards, “I just want to carry on being to the boys and to myself normal and I’m quite naive with the whole cancer thingy. I haven’t done any research or anything and I don’t want to know. I only know what I need to know, which is this is my medication and this is that, this is when I get better.
“I don’t want to know the ins and outs and because it’s too much for my brain to take it in. It really is.”
On February 4, Jade’s publicist revealed that the cancer had reached her liver, bowel and groin. Previous to this, doctors gave her a 40% chance of survival but they withdrew this following the diagnosis and Jade started treatment to prolong her life.
Jade begun a course of Topotecan, experimental drug, to help fight her illness. But doctors confirmed that the chemotherapy hadn’t been as effective as they’d hoped and just three days later, her publicist confirmed that Jade had had another emergency surgery to remove a tumour from her bowel.
On Valentine’s Day, her publicist reported that doctors from the Royal Marsden Hospital in London had confirmed her cancer as terminal. This meant she could die within weeks and at best case scenario, was only likely to survive a few months more.
“She was informed yesterday that tragically, she’s terminally ill.” Clifford said, “She was obviously devastated.”
Jade made the decision early on to not tell her and former partner Jeff Brazier’s sons about their mum’s cancer diagnosis. After Jade became terminally ill, she and Jeff wrote a piece for their children about how she would be a star in the sky that they’d always be able to look up and see.
“She didn’t want to tell them,” Jeff told the Mail on Sunday’s You magazine, “But she knew she had to do it became she wanted them to know the truth.”
He added, “The thought of that always reduces me to tears. Our poor boys, poor Jade.”
As recent as last year, Jeff opened up about raising their sons and keeping their mum’s memory alive.
Following Jade’s terminal diagnosis, medical organisations in the UK began to receive an extraordinary number of requests for cervical screenings from women. The uptake was visible particularly in younger women and in turn, it reversed the decade-long decline in screenings for women aged 25 to 29.
This huge increase in requests, following Jade’s terminal illness diagnosis, also led to the government agreeing to review the NHS policy on cervical cancer screenings. The standard policy was to not screen for cervical cancer until the age of 25 in England and 20 in the rest of the UK. Jade issued a press release at the time to say she was “immensely proud” of her role in the review.
The review didn’t create many changes though and the screening age is still 25 in England.
In February 2009, Jade married boyfriend Jack Tweed at the Down Hall Country Hotel near Hatfield Heath, Hertfordshire.
Jade had an operation to take out a bowl blockage that was causing pain in the first days of the month. Following this, she went back to her home in Essex with her husband, Jack Tweed, by her side.
On March 22 2009, Jade Goody died in her sleep at home during the early hours of the morning. Her mother, husband and close family friend Kevin Adams were at her side when she died.
Jade’s funeral was on April 4 2009 at St John’s Anglican Church in Buckhurst Hill, Essex. While the service was a private ceremony for friends and family only, her sons did not attend.
She was later buried that day close to her home in Epping Forest.
How did Jade Goody get HPV?
It’s not clear how Jade contracted HPV. However, according to the NHS, people spread human papillomavirus (HPV) predominantly through sexual activity.
The virus, of which there are over 100 different kinds, doesn’t have any symptoms and most people don’t even know they have it. It’s also very common and the health service says that most people will actually get “some type” of HPV during the course of their life. Much like other sexually transmitted infections, you don’t have to have sexual contact with loads of people to get HPV. You can contract the virus the very first time you engage in sexual activity.
While most people with HPV won’t notice it, the virus can lead to other conditions such as genital warts or, in Jade’s case, abnormal changes to the cells that can sometimes become cancer.
Jade contracted just one type of HPV, which according to the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) in the US, is responsible for 91% of all cervical cancer cases.
Since Jade’s death, other celebrities have opened up about contracting HPV. Most recently, X Factor contestant and Loose Women star, Stacey Solomon, opened up about her own HPV diagnosis after struggling with the virus due to its reputation.
What were her symptoms?
Jade Goody had symptoms of cervical cancer for four years but doctors struggled to determine what was wrong.
Her symptoms included:
- Severe stomach pains
- Heavy bleeding
- Large, heavy blood clots
- Spasms in the vaginal area and stomach
- Leg pains
However, the symptoms of cervical cancer aren’t always obvious. The NHS says that the cancer may not cause any symptoms at all, until it’s at an “advanced stage”. This is why it’s vital to attend cervical screenings.
As well as severe pain, other symptoms of cervical cancer include discomfort during sex. As well as an unpleasant or unusual vaginal discharge and pain in the lower back and/or pelvis. Once the cancer has reached a more advanced stage, those with the condition are likely to continue experiencing severe pain, constipation, loss of bladder and/or bowl control, leg swelling and severe vaginal bleeding.
How long did Jade Goody live with cancer?
After her return from India, doctors told Jade had she had been living with cancer for two years. They also told her that the tumour was the size of a tangerine. It was also present in more than half her womb.
Although, she experienced the early warning signs of cervical cancer from 1997 onwards.
How did Jade Goody find out about her cancer?
Jade Goody found out she had cancer in the Diary Room of Bigg Boss in 2009.
Before flying out, she had been suffering with pains in her leg and blood loss. These are both signs of cervical cancer. However, doctors could find nothing wrong on inspection. They offered Jade a smear test before they discharged her and she left the UK.
On her second day in the house, Jade’s consultant told her that she had cancer. At first, Jade thought the phone call from her consultant was fake.
She said, “I asked the doctor what hospital I was born in. When he answered right, I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s real.’ Then he said, ‘Jade, you’ve got cancer.’ The last thing on this planet I expected was for them to tell me that. I knew it wasn’t a joke then. My heart sank.”
The producers of Bigg Boss promised not to film the conversation in the Diary Room. They did film the call between Jade and her agent.
Her spokesperson said at the time, “It looks like her cancer is at an early stage. But we will have to wait until she gets back to Britain and sees a specialist and has more tests.”
What stage cancer did she have?
The doctors told Jade that the cancer was stage four, following a range of initial treatments. As she was in an advanced stage of the cancer, she would need a year of chemotherapy. With this, she only had a 50% chance of survival.
Following the eight-hour hysterectomy operation, the surgeons found that the cancer had spread to the tissue behind her womb. Jade’s chances of survival dropped from 50% to zero.
During this time, Jade starred in a documentary-style television show. Jade: With Love followed her daily life through the cancer treatment.