A carbon dots-embedded epitope imprinted polymer (C-MIP) was fabricated for targeted fluorescence imaging of cervical cancer by specifically recognizing the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). The core-shell C-MIP was prepared by a reverse microemulsion polymerization method. This method used silica nanoparticles embedded with carbon dots as carriers, acrylamide as the main functional monomer, and N-terminal nonapeptides of EGFR modified by palmitic acid as templates. A series of characterizations (transmission electron microscope, dynamic light scattering, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, zeta potential, and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy) prove the successful synthesis of C-MIP. The fluorescence of C-MIP is quenched by the epitopes of EGFR due to the specific recognition of epitopes of EGFR through their imprinted cavities (analytical excitation/emission wavelengths, 540 nm/610 nm). The linear range of fluorescence quenching is 2.0 to 15.0 μg mL−1 and the determination limit is 0.73 μg mL−1. The targeted imaging capabilities of C-MIP are demonstrated through in vitro and in vivo experiments. The laser confocal imaging results indicate that HeLa cells (over-expression EGFR) incubated with C-MIP show stronger fluorescence than that of MCF-7 cells (low-expression EGFR), revealing that C-MIP can target tumor cells overexpressing EGFR. The results of imaging experiments in tumor-bearing mice exhibit that C-MIP has a better imaging effect than C-NIP, which further proves the targeted imaging ability of C-MIP in vivo. Graphical abstractAn oriented epitope imprinted polymer embedded with carbon dots was prepared for the determination of the epitopes of epidermal growth factor receptor and targeted fluorescence imaging of cervical cancer.