Why You Should Never Miss Your Smear Test

Women who do not attend for cervical screening have only a 66% cure rate for cervical cancer, according to research published in the British Medical Journal this week. Not attending screening appointments means that women do not seek medical advice until symptoms of cervical cancer are being experienced. Symptoms of cervical cancer include abnormal bleeding, pelvic pain, unusual heavy discharge, pain after urination and bleeding after intercourse, and can easily be mistakenly attributed to other illnesses.

The Swedish Centre for Research and Development followed all 1230 women who were diagnosed with cervical cancer in Sweden between 1999 and 2001 to see just how significant smear tests are in cure rates. Sadly, 373 of the women died from cervical cancer and three quarters of them had one thing in common: they had not had a cervical smear in the recommended time frame.

For women diagnosed through screening the cure rate is 92% and the chances of a cure are higher for women who attend an appointment through invitation and are not overdue for a smear test. The NHS recommend that women between the ages of 25-49 be screened every three years and women over 50 every five years. You should be sent a letter telling you when your screening is due and if you think you are overdue, contact your GP to check.

The research shows that cervical screening within the recommended time frame substantially reduces the risk of cervical cancer and improves cure rates. You should make every effort to attend your appointment.

2 Responses to Why You Should Never Miss Your Smear Test

  1. Marc Gawley says:

    Does the report distinguish between correlation and causation…perhaps women who don’t attend for screening are the type of people more likely to get cervical cancer due to lifestyle choices?
    (http://xkcd.com/552/).

    • Jenny Gawley says:

      The cure rate is higher if the cancer is screen detected irrespective of whether women had previously participated in screening, suggesting that determinants of screening attendance have not confounded the effect

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