Regular cervical screenings can significantly boost womens' chances of surviving cervical cancer, a study claims.
Researchers in Sweden claim regular smear tests increase survival rates to 92 percent, compared to 62 percent for symptomatic diagnosis.
The authors of the study, published in the British Medical Journal, examined the cases of 1,230 women diagnosed with cervical cancer in Sweden between 1999 and 2001.
The study, carried out at the Centre for Research and Development at Uppsala University in Gavle and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, set out to establish whether regular smear tests simply provided an earlier diagnosis, rather than affecting the time of death.
"Feeling healthy and a lack of confidence in the benefits of screening are barriers to screening attendance for some women, but our data imply that all women (regardless of previous participation) can be advised that screening will increase the likelihood of a cure in case an invasive cancer is detected," the study found.
The authors concluded that "detection of invasive cancer by screening implies a very favourable prognosis compared to cases detected by symptoms".
Approximately 2,900 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK - about two percent of all cancer cases diagnosed in women.
Cancer Research UK estimates that screening saves about 5,000 lives a year across the UK.