Referral to a specialist for symptoms of cervical cancer

Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist if you have symptoms that could be due to cervical cancer. Depending on your symptoms and other factors, this might be an urgent suspected cancer referral.

You will see a specialist as soon as possible. Ask your GP when this is likely to be.

Seeing your GP

It can be hard for GPs to decide who may have cancer and who might have a more minor condition. For some symptoms, your doctor may ask you to wait to see if the symptoms get better or respond to treatment, such as antibiotics.

UK referral guidelines

There are guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs a referral. These vary slightly between the different UK nations. Your GP will use these guidelines as well as their own experience and judgement.

England and Wales

Your doctor should arrange for you to see a specialist within 2 weeks if an examination of your cervix shows that you might have cervical cancer.

Northern Ireland

Your GP should refer you urgently to a specialist if you:

  • have signs that show you might have cervical cancer after examination of your cervix (you don’t need a smear test before referral and a previous negative result should not delay your referral)
  • are not on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and have postmenopausal bleeding
  • you have persistent or unexplained postmenopausal bleeding after stopping HRT for 6 weeks
  • are taking tamoxifen and have postmenopausal bleeding
  • have bleeding between periods

You should have an ultrasound scan urgently if you your GP can feel a mass:

  • in your tummy (abdomen)
  • the space between your hip bones (pelvis)

If the scan shows that you might have cancer, you should have an urgent referral.

If an urgent ultrasound scan is unavailable, you should have an urgent referral.


Your GP should do an urgent suspicion of cancer referral if examination of your cervix shows signs that you might have cervical cancer and if you have the following symptoms:

  • vaginal discharge
  • bleeding after the menopause or after having sex
  • persistent bleeding between periods

Remember, these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, and do not necessarily mean that you have cervical cancer. But it is important to get them checked out.

Other symptoms

Your GP will consider any other symptoms that you are having, so do mention these. They might also take into account whether you have any risk factors that affect your chances of developing cervical cancer.

If you're still worried

Sometimes you might feel that your GP is not concerned enough about your symptoms. If you think they should be more concerned, print this page and the symptoms page. Ask your GP to explain why they don’t think you need a referral.

Contact your GP again if your symptoms don't get better or you notice any new or unusual symptoms. 

What should I do if I don’t get my appointment?

If your GP has referred you, ask them when you should get your appointment. Contact them again if you don’t get one. Or some hospitals have a referral service you could try contacting if you know which hospital you are going to. Explain that you are waiting for an urgent suspected cancer referral.

Waiting times

Your hospital is working towards waiting time targets. For example, a target to find out whether you have cancer or not. And there are targets to start treatment if you are diagnosed with cancer. These are slightly different depending on where you live in the UK.

Related links