After a Pap smear showed an abnormal result, Kirsty Browne asked for a more invasive test on a casual visit to her GP.
The 30-year-old said the decision saved her life.
"I was diagnosed with a rarer form of cervical cancer," she said.
"I'm lucky in that I'm a pharmacist, so I'm pretty on top of these things. I got a better quality smear done proactively and if I hadn't, I'd probably be dead."
Ms Browne said the test, which she had to specifically request in 2014, is very similar to the new cervical screening program that replaced the two-yearly Pap smear in Australia from December 1 last year.
The new five-yearly test is expected to reduce the number of cervical cancer deaths by 45 per cent by 2035, in what has been described as a major step "towards completely eradicating cervical cancer" by Cancer Council NSW's director of research Karen Canfell.
The test is predicted to save 587 lives between now and 2035 and is also expected to cut the incidence of cervical cancer by half by 2035, averting more than 2000 cases, a new study by the Cancer Council has found.
The "much more effective program" enables early detection of the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is responsible for 99 per cent of cervical cancers, rather than the Pap smear's reliance on finding visible evidence of abnormal cells once they have already emerged.
"Our new study provides further reassurance that the new cervical screening program will be a significant and timely step in Australia's journey towards completely eradicating cervical cancer," Professor Canfell said.
"Australia is very much leading the world in this whole space. We were the first to introduce a nationally-funded HPV vaccination for young girls and we're one of the first countries to move to this new and better cervical screening test.
"This new study gives us a quantitative prediction of the combined effect of the two programs."
After she was diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age of 26, Ms Browne said she was offered a trachelectomy instead of a complete hysterectomy to give her the chance of having a baby.
"There hadn't been any women in Australia who had done that; nobody at the hospital knew of any cases," she said.
Ms Browne said she got pregnant about three years after her surgery.
"I was terrified. Everyone was going 'someone's made a mistake, it says here you don't have a cervix', and I'd go, 'no, no, that's right'," Ms Browne said.
She had to live in hospital towards the end of her pregnancy until her son, Baxter, was born in November last year.
"It's been horrifying and scary but I'm very lucky," Ms Browne said.
"I'm pretty lucky I got the smear done. I'd had the vaccine and I've had 15 Pap smears, so it's not that I'm negligent. It really highlights the importance of getting them at the recommended time."
Professor Canfell said the Cancer Council's study also showed that cervical cancer rates will appear to increase over the next few years because of the improved screening program, but will then fall significantly.
"It's testing one stage earlier than the Pap smear test, which is looking for visible instances [of the virus]," Professor Canfell said.
"It involves a much more sensitive test that's going to be much more effective, even though it's a less frequent test."