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Interval cancer - a cervical cancer diagnosis between screening tests

You can still develop cervical cancer even if your cervical screening test result does not find HPV or abnormal cells changes. This is why you should never ignore symptoms that may be signs of cervical cancer.

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

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.

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 risk of cancer developing at the time.

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

We are putting in place a new process for reviewing interval cancers. We will be inviting patients and experts to design this process with us.

Read the expert panel review of our cervical cancer review process.

If you contact us we will keep you up to date about when this new process is ready.

You can contact us on:

We will also update this website with details about how to request a review.

If you have requested a review of your test slides

We are working with an expert panel to improve the way we do this. This has meant a delay in processing requests.

If you have requested a review of your screening history, we will be in touch with you in January. We are sorry for the delay in responding to your request.

If you have symptoms

Cervical cancer symptoms are not always obvious.

But symptoms to look out for include:

  • bleeding between periods
  • vaginal spotting or unusual discharge
  • pain during sex
  • bleeding after sex
  • pain in your pelvis - anywhere between your belly button and the top of your thighs

If you are worried about symptoms that might mean you have cervical cancer, phone your GP. Never ignore symptoms.

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