As part of its strategy to identify cancer cases in a rural population, the cancer registry of Barshi, India, has developed a methodology which includes education of the population about likely symptoms of cancer, and motivation of symptomatic individuals to undergo medical investigation. Patients with cervical cancer from the registry area who attended Barshi Cancer Hospital (84% of the total) showed a significant improvement in stage at diagnosis between 1988-1989 (38% in stages I and II) and 1990-1992 (51% in stages I and II). No change was observed in those attending the same hospital from a control area (38% vs. 34%). Among a random sample of the population of the registry area, 76% of women were aware of the symptoms of cervical cancer, compared with 25% of the population of control areas. It is suggested that action to raise awareness of symptoms of cancer, and to encourage medical consultation, should form an important initial component of cervical-cancer control programmes.