Find out when GPs refer people to see a cervical cancer specialist.
Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist urgently if you have symptoms that could be due to cervical cancer.
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.
There are guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs a referral.
What your GP should do first
Your GP should examine you internally if you have been having unusual symptoms such as:
- a change in your menstrual cycle
- bleeding after sex
- bleeding if you are past your menopause
- an abnormal discharge from your vagina
The GP should do a full internal examination of your vagina, using a speculum so that they can see the cervix properly.
Most of these symptoms are related to abnormal bleeding. This is the most common symptom of cervical cancer. Bleeding is considered abnormal if you have it:
- between periods
- after or during sex
- at any time if you are past your menopause
Scottish guidelines for cervical cancer state that you should be tested first for chlamydia if:
- you have not yet had your menopause
- you have any of the above symptoms
- your cervix is inflamed or bleeding on contact
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause some of the same symptoms. If you are past your menopause and you have bleeding, your GP should do an internal pelvic examination. Post menopausal bleeding can also be a symptom of womb cancer.
According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines, you should get an appointment within 2 weeks for an urgent referral. Your GP should consider referring you to a specialist if they examine your cervix and think that cancer might be possible.
If you have been experiencing pain, bleeding or other symptoms your GP may decide to refer you for other tests such as an ultrasound.
UK referral guidelines
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) produce guidelines for GPs in the UK. The guidelines help them decide who needs an urgent referral.