HealthDay News — Women whose cervical cancers are detected using Pap smears have more favorable prognoses than women whose cancers are symptomatic, study findings show.

Bengt Andrae, MD, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and colleagues examined survival among 1,230 women diagnosed with cervical cancer from 1999 to 2001, to determine whether Pap smear detection actually resulted in improved survival or merely increased the lead time until death.

Among women diagnosed with Pap smear, 92% were cured after an average 8.5 year follow-up period, compared with 66% of women whose cancers were symptomatic, for an estimated 26% difference in cure between the two groups. This was stronger than what is reflected in down-staging and was not attributable to lead time bias, the researchers reported in BMJ.

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Among symptomatic women, cure rates were 14% higher for those who had undergone screening according to recommendations compared with patients who were overdue for screening. The cure proportions were similar for almost all histopathologic types and were closely associated with the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) stage. Even after adjusting for FIGO stage at diagnosis, cure rates were 15% higher among women who had been screened.

“The effect on cervical cancer cure should be included when evaluating cervical screening programmes,” the researchers wrote.

Andrae B et al. BMJ. 2012;344:e900.