Jade Goody, the HPV vaccine and yet another example of why our health care system is broken


British reality TV star Jade Goody's public battle with cervical cancer may seem distasteful. But it will probably help save lives. Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer in young women have reportedly increased 20 percent in Britain since Goody announced that she was terminally ill in August (she died this week at age 27).

Regular Pap tests can find precancerous cells early enough before they turn lethal. Since the Pap test was introduced more than 50 years ago, it has led to a 70 percent decline in rates of cervical cancer in the U.S., once the leading cause of cancers deaths among women. Even now, nearly 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,000 die of the disease each year, according to the CDC.

Goody's death could also lead to wider acceptance of a new weapon in the fight against cervical cancer. It's called Gardasil and it's a groundbreaking vaccine for HPV, a sexually transmitted infection that lies at the root of most cervical cancers. Actually, let me amend that: the TV series could lead to a wider acceptance of Gardisal in Britain. Even with the buzz that has followed the show across the pond, any such positive change in attitudes about preventive health measures in this country still tend to run smack dab into the economics of our antiquated health care system.