Regular smear tests can substantially boost survival chances in women who are suffering from cervical cancer, claims a study published on BMJ.
The authors from the Centre for Research and Development in
Gävle and the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm,
all 1230 women diagnosed with cervical cancer nationwide between 1999 and 2001.
In the study, which is the first to estimate chances of
surviving cervical cancer, both screen-detected cancers (those with an abnormal
smear result one to six months before cancer diagnosis) and symptomatic cancers
(all remaining cases) were tested. The objective of the paper was to see if the
detection of cervical cancer by screening resulted in better prognosis or just
resulted in earlier diagnosis, without postponing the time of death.
For women of screening age there was a 92% cure rate after a
screen-detected diagnosis, which decreased to 66% for symptomatic diagnosis.
This result shows a substantial increase in chances of cure for women who
attended cervical screening compared to those who did not. The chances of cure were also higher for
women who attended screening following an invitation, compared to those who
were overdue for an examination.
Furthermore, three quarters of the 373 women who died from
cervical cancer had not had a cervical smear in the recommended time frame.
The authors conclude that screening both reduces the risk of
cervical cancer and is associated with improved cure. They state that
"detection of invasive cancer by screening implies a very favorable prognosis
compared to cases detected by symptoms". The authors recommend that the effect
on the cure for cervical cancer should be included when evaluating screening