Introduction Cancer of the cervix is one of the most prevalent cancers; worldwide, almost half a million women are diagnosed with the disease each year (Ferlay et al. 2004). Cancer of the cervix is recognised as the leading virus-induced cancer in women. The relationship with human-papilloma virus (HPV) infection means that women with cervical cancer tend to be younger than women with other gynaecological cancers. In developing countries, women have a fivetimes greater risk of developing cervical cancer than do women in developed countries (Monsonego 1997). In developed countries, the incidence of cervical cancer has steadily decreased since the introduction of the Papanicolaou smear (‘Pap smear’) as a screening test in the 1940s.