Health researchers in Kiribati say at least four women die annually from cervical cancer but only ten percent of women in the target age group are being screened.
The Kiribati Family Health Association and Volunteer Services Abroad interviewed 90 people in South Tarawa to find out how much they knew about the second most common cause of women's cancer.
A VSA researcher, Holly Coulter, said it soon became clear much more education was needed.
"The main thing that we found is that there's a real lack of knowledge around cervical screening in Kiribati. People, they don't really know what it is, they don't know why they need it, they don't really understand how cervical cancer develops and they kind of think that maybe you only really need to go for a smear if you've got some symptoms, which as we know is actually a lot of the time too late," said Holly Coulter.
Holly Coulter said the misunderstandings were leading to a stigma against taking part in screening programmes.