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Cancer screening and coronavirus (COVID-19)

The UK has three cancer screening programmes for breast, bowel and cervical cancer. Because of COVID-19, invitations and follow-up appointments are being delayed.

The NHS has had to make difficult decisions. Delaying screening means the NHS staff who run screening programmes can be there to support critical services needed at this time. It’s also to protect you from unnecessary risk.

It’s important to remember that screening is for healthy people with no symptoms. If you notice any unusual changes to your body that don’t go away, talk to your doctor. In most cases it won’t be cancer, but it’s best to get it checked out.

I have an abnormal screening result, but my follow-up appointment has been cancelled

You may have received an abnormal result from your screening test or told you need further tests. But your follow-up appointment may be cancelled or delayed. This is to make sure staff are able to see people most in need at this time. And it is to make sure you are not putting yourself or others at unnecessary risk by going to the hospital for the appointment.

The teams running the screening programmes are putting measures in place to make sure that everyone with an abnormal result are followed up.

You may feel quite worried about your result and that is completely normal. Most people who get an abnormal screening result don’t have cancer. But it’s still important you go to your follow-up appointment when it's rearranged. 

In the meantime, if you notice anything that’s not normal for you contact your doctor. Don’t put something new or different about your body down to getting older or another health condition you might have. In most cases it won’t be cancer, but it’s best to get it checked out.

If you have questions, contact your doctor or call the phone number listed on your NHS letter. You can also phone the Cancer Research UK nurses if you would like to talk to someone at this worrying time.

Talk to the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday

My screening appointment has been cancelled

It may be worrying to have your appointment cancelled. But it’s important to remember that screening is for healthy people who have no symptoms at all. Once screening programmes are back up and running, your appointment may be rearranged. You could also talk to your doctor if you don’t hear anything. 

I am due for screening, but I haven’t received an invitation.

It’s important to remember that screening is for healthy people who have no symptoms at all. Once screening programmes are back up and running, people should start receiving invitations again. But it may take longer than usual before you are invited. Make sure you are registered with a GP to receive an invitation.

More information

You can find information about screening and about symptoms of cancer in the cancer types information.

Last reviewed: 
21 May 2020
Next review due: 
22 Jun 2020

Information and help