Cervical cancer diagnosis

You usually start by seeing your GP. They will examine you and may refer you to the hospital for a specialist assessment and tests.

If your GP suspects you may have cervical cancer, they will refer you urgently to the hospital and you will be seen within 2 weeks. If you have had an abnormal smear test following your cervical screening test, you may be referred directly for a colposcopy.

A colposcopy uses a microscope called a colposcope to look closely at your cervix. If this test shows abnormal cells on the cervix, you may have one of these treatments to remove them:

  • large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ)
  • needle excision of the transformation zone (NETZ)
  • cone biopsy.

The small area of tissue removed from your cervix is sent to a laboratory and checked for cancer cells.

Find out more about having these treatments in our information on treatment for abnormal cervical cells.

If the colposcopy or tissue collected during treatment for abnormal cells show you have cervical cancer, you will need to have further tests. These tests will check whether the cancer has spread beyond the cervix and also check your general health. You may have:

  • Blood tests

    You may have blood tests to check your general health, the number of blood cells in your blood (blood count) and how well your kidneys are working.

  • Chest x-ray

    This uses x-rays to take a picture of your chest, to check your lungs and heart.

  • MRI scan

    An MRI scan uses magnetism to build up a detailed picture of the inside of your body.

  • CT scan

    CT scan takes a series of x-rays, which build up a 3D picture of the inside of the body.

  • PET-CT scan

    PET-CT scan is a combination of a CT scan and a PET scan. PET-CT scans give more detailed information about the part of the body being scanned.

  • Examination under anaesthetic

    An examination under anaesthetic (EUA) is an examination of the vagina and cervix, done under a general anaesthetic. It allows your doctor to examine you thoroughly and check the extent of the cancer without causing you discomfort. They may also remove small samples of tissue (biopsy). During the EUA, your doctor may look into your bladder (cystoscopy) and the lower end of your large bowel (proctoscopy) to see if the cancer has spread. You may have some slight bleeding for a few days after an EUA. Your doctor or nurse can tell you more about the examination and what to expect afterwards.