Can a smear miss cancer?

Hi everyone

I’ve been getting myself into a state. Since having my baby 8 months ago I’ve been having regular pelvic and back pain, my periods are now extremely heavy and painful and now have started spotting after sex. All these symptoms are xx. My smear in March was normal and I’ve just had another one done and awaiting results… I’ve been reading that symptoms don’t come until cancer is advanced and I’m wondering could my smear in March missed this? I have two young children and am just a mess waiting for these results. I’m so scared of these symptoms and what could be going on…

Just looking for advice and information

Anyone else going through this? Or been through this, what was the outcome?

Hi @Gracej22

The waiting is the hardest part about all of this especially when you have concerns, it is right that if someone gets symptoms they are generally in an advanced stage where a tumour is large enough to cause symptoms rather than a lesion this they would see with the naked eye doubtful they would miss that… however you had a clear smear in march meaning there would have been no high risk HPV detected then which is what causes CC and CC is known for its slow progression/growth, so it seems extremly unlikely your symptoms would be CC related… some smears can miss adenocarcinoma as that occurs further up the cervical canal where the spatula cant reach but without HPV it wouldnt occur

Alot of woman have symptoms that match CC to a tee but they very rarely turn out to be that CC symptoms are rare with alot of conditions that have the same symptoms, it may be worth speaking with the GP as it does seem you have something gynaecological going on whether its a shift in hormones, an ectropion or something else but at the moment it doesnt suggest its anything CC related… i really hope you get some answers soon xx

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Thankyou so much for your reply. You have honestly eased my anxiety alot.

I went back to my GP today who has ordered a pelvic ultrasound and I also found out I have a UTI. I will try to be patient in awaiting the smear results and ultrasound. Xx

Hello, its unlikely however smears can miss cancer. All four of my smears were incorrectly reported on, two of which reporting no HPV when i did have it. My cancer was stage 2b.

If i were you i would push for a referal to see a gynaecologist, my only symptom was light bleeding after sex

Sending you lots of love x



Smears can definitely miss Cancer. My best friend had 3 clear smears despite having CC symptoms which meant she never made it to a colposcopy.
Her cancer was only detected after she had her baby almost 2 years ago and has just passed away last week.

If there is 1 message I know she would want me to share, very loudly, it is this : do not rely on smears, trust yourself and know what is not right for your body and fight to get checked. Do not allow someone to make a guess, insist they prove you’re OK.

I haven’t shared this to scare monger, it is simply to raise awareness that smears are not 100% accurate.

Wishing you all the best.



smears aren’t reliable at all they do miss cancer. I’ve never missed a smear had one in 2018 which was all clear no HPV or anything. Then because of covid I had to wait, ended up getting the watery discharge and bleeding in between periods which I kept putting down to my coil. I eventually got my smear in October last year results came back that they had found high grade HPV and was booked in n for colposcopy on the 22nd November 2021 they couldn’t finish doing the lletz as I was bleeding so much. Managed to get biopsies taken. Then the dreaded wait for results. Found out on the 6th December that I had cervical cancer. They thought I would be able to just get RH but I ended up being stage 3C1. Started my treatment in February this year 25 rounds of radiotherapy 5 rounds chemo and 3 brachytherapy. I’m now NED, but just shows you that they can miss things in smears.

Really wishing you all the best. Xxxx

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I’m so sorry you lost your friend to this horrible cancer. Thank you for raising the point that a smear doesn’t always detect cancer. We know our own bodies & must insist on further investigation. I was diagnosed with clear cell following what was meant to be a routine hysterectomy. A cyst on my cervix turned out to be a rare tumour. I really hope, in the future, the majority of cervical cancer cases will be almost eradicated with the hpv vaccine.


A little update…

My smear came back normal. I had to have two rounds of antibiotics to clear up my UTI. Haven’t had any further symptoms since. I had my pelvic ultrasound which showed a complex ovarian cyst which I need to wait 4 months and have another scan and see if it’s gone. I’m extremely nervous this cyst could be cancer but have been told by my GP it will most likely go away. Just so scared.

Sorry to hear about your friend that’s so sad… Can we I ask how they discovered the cancer?

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I’m so sorry for your loss. That is so sad. Her poor babies…

How did they find the cancer if you don’t mind me asking?

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They found a tumor when she gave birth to her baby. I still can’t quite believe she is gone and am currently awaiting results from a lletz for cin3 myself, I’m quite a mess! It appears my last smear didn’t pick up my hpv or changes eirher- once I have the strength, I shall be doing my best to spread awareness of this x


Hi, just wanted to see how you were doing??