Tonya Carter, an eldercare worker for Comfort Keepers in northeastern, AL, is one of many stories of individuals who are dealing with advanced cervical cancer because they put off appointments for a Pap smear and HPV test for years, according to a profile in The New Yorker.

Carter, who lives in an area straddling the poverty line, doubted her ability to pay for cervical cancer screenings, and as a result hadn’t seen a gynecologist in more than a decade. In 2016, she began to feel sharp pains in her lower back, and over subsequent months, the pain spread through her abdomen and down into her pelvis. That summer, she was diagnosed with lethal Stage IV B cervical cancer.

And while cervical cancer was once the deadliest type of cancer among women, advances in medicine have transformed it into an often treatable condition. The widespread use of the Pap smear is an important component of that transformation, according to the article.

Carter, who is now undergoing treatment, but regularly worries how her children would fare without her, tells the magazine “If I was going to yearly checkups, it could have been caught way before.”

Read more about Tonya, and how the Pap smear is an important tool in catching cervical cancer at a treatable stage here.