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Interval cancer - a cervical cancer diagnosis between screening tests

If cervical cancer is found in between your cervical screening tests, we call this interval cancer. This is because it is found in the interval between your previous test and your next test.

Never ignore symptoms of cervical cancer.

Interval cancer is not common

Interval cancers are not common. But they happen in every screening programme. They are unavoidable and are one of the main limitations of cervical screening.

You can still develop cervical cancer even if your cervical screening test does not find HPV or abnormal cells changes.

This is why having regular cervical screening tests is important.

Why interval cancer happens

Sometimes, interval cancer happens because of a false negative result. These are results that were reported as negative even though there was a HPV infection or abnormal cells in the cervix.

Other times, interval cancer happens even though there was no sign of abnormal cells in your previous screening test.

Review your records after cancer diagnosis

If you developed cervical cancer after screening you can have a free personal cervical screening review.

A review may help you or your family if you:

  • are looking for answers or ways to understand how and when your cancer developed
  • want to ask questions about your screening journey

What we do in a personal cervical screening review

Read the expert panel review of our cervical cancer review process (PDF, 2 MB, 90 pages).

If you have symptoms

Unusual bleeding from the vagina is usually the first noticeable symptom of cervical cancer.

Non-urgent advice: Contact your GP if:

Never ignore symptoms.

Page last reviewed: 19 December 2022
Next review due: 19 December 2025