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Smear tests boost cancer cure rates

Regular smear tests can “substantially” boost a woman's chance of surviving cervical cancer, a Swedish study suggests.

Researchers found women with a smear test-detected diagnosis had a 92% cure rate, compared to 66% for symptomatic diagnosis.

Cure rates were also higher among women who attended smear tests following an invitation, rather than those who were overdue for an examination.

The study, published in the BMJ, studied 1230 women diagnosed with cervical cancer in Sweden between 1999 and 2001.

Researchers from the Centre for Research and Development in Gävle and the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden found three-quarters of the 373 women who died from cervical cancer during the study period had not had a smear test “in the recommended time frame”.

“The detection of invasive cancer by screening implies a very favourable prognosis compared to cases detected by symptoms,” note the researchers.

They recommend the effect on the cure for cervical cancer should be included when evaluating screening programmes.

Question: Should the age limit for cervical cancer screening be lowered from 25 in England?