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Page last updated at 13:45 GMT, Tuesday, 19 August 2008 14:45 UK
How dangerous is cervical cancer?

By Tulip Mazumdar
Newsbeat health reporter

Jade Goody

Jade Goody's agent has told Newsbeat the reality TV star has been diagnosed with cervical cancer.

The 27-year-old was given the news in the Diary Room on the Indian version of Big Brother.

She had undergone tests earlier this month after collapsing and losing blood at her Essex home.

But she had decided to fly to Mumbai to appear in Bigg Boss to make amends after being accused of racism towards Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty on Celebrity Big Brother in the UK.

Newsbeat's health reporter explains what it is and how it could affect the TV star.

What is cervical cancer?

The cervix is another name for the neck of the womb. It's covered with a layer of skin-like cells.

It is those cells that can become abnormal and then turn cancerous.

Left untreated it can leave women infertile and can be fatal.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptom is bleeding from the vagina when you're not on your period, and after or during sex.

Women in the UK are given regular smear tests to check for abnormal cells in the cervix from their early 20s.

It means most cases are caught early and successfully treated.

How serious is it for Jade?

It's unclear at the moment. There are a number of stages between having an abnormal smear test and getting a definite cancer diagnosis.

Jade has yet to have a face to face conversation with her doctor about this. It's only then, her agent says, she'll have a clear picture of how advanced the cancer is.

Her agent says she has fully blown cervical cancer, but it depends how deep that cancer has gone into her body.

In cases like this, the best case scenario is it's just on the outside of the cervix and can be removed with relatively straight forward laser treatment.

Worst case is it gets in deeper and the patient needs chemotherapy and radiotherapy or have their womb removed.

How common is cervical cancer in the UK?

Next to breast cancer it's the most common form of the disease among under-35s.

About 2,700 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK each year.

About 24,000 women have a severely abnormal cervical screening result every year.

The good news is most cases are treated early and survival rates are high.

The government is due to bring in vaccinations against the virus for 12 and 13-year-olds later this year.

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