Gynecologic Cancer Symptoms: Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

What Can Abnormal Bleeding Mean?

Abnormal vaginal bleeding, also referred to as abnormal uterine bleeding, is an extremely common symptom and one that is experienced by most women at some point in their lives. Most of the time, a benign process causes the bleeding, or spotting, and hormonal fluctuations are often the cuplrit.

However, abnormal vaginal bleeding is also one of the most frequent symptoms experienced by women when they have gynecologic cancer, such as cervical cancer, uterine cancer, or ovarian cancer.

 

Therefore, it is important to understand when abnormal vaginal bleeding can signal a serious problem and, of course, you should always consult your doctor if you have any vaginal bleeding that is not normal for you. 

What is Considered Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding?

There are several instances in which vaginal bleeding would be considered abnormal.

  • Heavy periods: Heavy periods lasting more than two cycles needs to be reported to your doctor. Uterine and endometrial cancer both cause heavy vaginal bleeding. Sudden, heavy vaginal bleeding that soaks at least one pad every hour for 24 hours needs to be reported to a physician immediately.
  • Bleeding between periodsHeavy spotting or an additional cycle in a month that occurs for more than two cycles should be evaluated by a doctor.
  • Bleeding during or after sex or douching: Bleeding after sex and douching are both symptoms of cervical and vaginal cancer. This type of vaginal bleeding also needs to be reported to a physician.
  • Bleeding after menopause: Any woman who is in menopause (has not had a period for 12 consecutive months) and experiences vaginal bleeding should see her physician. 

Other Causes of Vaginal Bleeding

Abnormal vaginal bleeding can be caused by a number of reasons, such as:

  • Pregnancy complications
  • I nfection 

Diagnosing Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

If you experience abnormal vaginal bleeding, your doctor will ask you questions about when it occurrs, how long it lasts, and how heavy the bleeding is. Keeping a diary of abnormal vaginal bleeding can help you answer these questions, and you can estimate the amount of bleeding by keeping track of how often you soak through a pad or tampon.

In addition, your doctor may ask questions about any other symptoms. He or she may perform a pelvic exam, blood tests, colposcopy, ultrasound, hysteroscopy, or other diagnostic tests to help diagnose the cause of your abnormal vaginal bleeding. 

Treating Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

Depending on the underlying cause, treating abnormal vaginal bleeding can range from doing nothing, to initiating hormonal birth control, using medications, or surgery. Aspirin and products containing aspirin can thin blood and increase bleeding and therefore should be avoided. 

More About Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

Top 10 Causes of Heavy Menstrual Bleeding
Do I Have Abnormal Menstrual Bleeding


Source: Merc Online Medical Library. Menstrual Disorders and Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding; http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec22/ch244/ch244a.html

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