Awareness of cervical cancer could be set to rise thanks to a current storyline in BBC1 soap EastEnders, health experts have claimed.
The number of women booking a smear test is expected to increase as fans watch Tanya Jessop, played by actress Jo Joyner, battle the illness.
The character has recently been diagnosed with cervical cancer following a routine smear test, and experts believe the scenes could have a similar effect to the diagnosis of Big Brother star Jade Goody three years ago.
Arjun Jeyarajah, who works at Barts and The London NHS Trust, said: “Soaps like EastEnders can do an awful lot of good in highlighting the importance of women looking after their health and having regular check-ups, including smear tests.”
He said the media could encourage women to have smear tests every three years, helping medical staff to detect the disease in its early stages.
Some cervical screening teams reported a rise in smear test appointments after Goody was diagnosed in August 2008.
On the day the star revealed she was suffering from the disease, Cancer Research UK witnessed a tenfold increase in hits to its website.