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Interval cancer - bowel cancer diagnosis in between screening tests

You can get cancer at any time, including between your screening tests. We call cancers that are found in between screening tests, 'interval cancers'.

Interval cancer is not common

Interval cancers happen in every screening programme. They are unavoidable. But interval cancers are not common.

For every 1,000 people screened, around 2 of these will have interval cancer. This is a low rate that compares well internationally.

Why interval cancer happens

An interval bowel cancer is a cancer that is diagnosed within 3 years of having a colonoscopy.

In most of these cases, there was no sign of cancer seen during the colonoscopy. In some interval cancers, some signs of cancer were there but were not found when the colonoscopy was done.

Unfortunately, interval cancers are an unavoidable part of population-based bowel cancer screening.

Review your screening history after interval cancer diagnosis

Anyone diagnosed with bowel cancer can request a review of their screening history.

We are putting in place a new review process at the moment.

We will update this page with details of how to request a review, when this process has been finalised.

Read an expert panel review of our interval cancer review process.

If you have symptoms - phone your GP

Contact your GP without delay if you have any symptoms of bowel cancer. This includes rectal bleeding or change in bowel habit. Never ignore symptoms - even if you have had a recent normal screening result.

Read more about the symptoms of bowel cancer.

If you have any queries about interval cancer, contact us:

page last reviewed: 20/10/2020
next review due: 20/10/2023