Why Is the Smear Test Important?
A cervical smear is a preventative healthcare test women can opt for to help protect themselves against cervical cancer. Globally, cervical cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer-related death in women. In countries where cervical smear testing is routine for women, however, deaths from cervical cancer are less frequent. In the U.S., for example, cervical cancer is the eighth most common cancer-related cause of death in women.
The cervical smear test is important for women because it can effectively prevent the development of cervical cancer. The test can detect the cancer itself – allowing women to obtain early treatment and improve their chances of full recovery – and it can also detect cellular changes that may lead to cancer in the future. This means that not only can the test detect cancer early, it can detect potential cancer before it has a chance to develop.
Undergoing regular cervical smear tests for early cancer detection is particularly important because women who develop cervical cancer often have few symptoms in the early to middle stages of the disease. It is not until the disease has progressed significantly that symptoms of cervical cancer begin to appear, meaning that effective treatment is often difficult.
Even so, up to 80 percent of American women diagnosed with cervical cancer have not had a smear test in the five years prior to diagnosis, and many have never had a smear test at all.