Bleeding Between Periods: Cancer and Other Causes

If you notice recurring vaginal bleeding between periods, don't brush it aside. It could be a sign of a serious medical condition. Also referred to as spotting, intermenstrual bleeding or metrorrhagia, vaginal bleeding between periods is associated with a number of causes, some of which can be very dangerous. In case you notice any kind of abnormal bleeding between periods, cancer should not be your only assumption. Visit your doctor to get proper examination, testing and the right treatment.

Does Bleeding Between Periods Mean You Have Cancer?

It is not normal to bleed between periods and it is possible that such intermenstrual bleeding can indicate the presence of cancer of the reproductive organs. You need to consult your doctor for proper diagnosis.

Cancer of the uterus is the leading gynecologic cancer and it presents by abnormal bleeding. Bleeding between periods can also be a symptom of other gynecological cancers, including vaginal, cervical, ovarian and fallopian tube cancers. Abnormal bleeding is more common in post-menopausal women, so any abnormal bleeding necessitates an immediate visit to the doctor. Abnormal bleeding can also be a symptom of endometrial hyperplasia, a precursor to uterine cancer.

More Symptoms of Gynecologic Cancer

In addition to bleeding between periods, cancer in the reproductive organs can present with other symptoms.

1. Pelvic Pain

This is pain or pressure within the region below the navel. Persistent in nature, pelvic pain is not limited to the premenstrual period. The pain or pressure can signify any of the following:

  • Ovarian cancer
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Fallopian tube cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Vaginal cancer

2. Abdominal Swelling

Swelling of the abdomen and bloating is a common symptom of ovarian cancer. The sign, unfortunately regularly ignored, may have the victim go up a size in her dressing.

3. Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain or dull ache described by some women as similar to labor pains can be a symptom of ovarian cancer.

4. Persistent Fever

If you get a persistent fever that either keeps coming back, or goes on for more than seven days, you need to see a doctor. The fever can be a symptom of cancer.

5. Bowel Changes

Persistent changes in bowel habits can be an indication of gynecologic or colon cancer. Consult your doctor immediately if you notice the following persistent bowel changes:

  • Thinner stools
  • Blood in stool
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Gas
  • Other changes in bowel habits

6. Unexplained Weight Loss

Cancer, similar to other diseases, can bring about sudden weight loss. If you lose about 10 pounds of your weight within a month without even trying, see your doctor to rule out the problem.

7. Vaginal Abnormalities

Vaginal abnormalities could be signs of a gynecologic cancer. Pay attention to the changes or abnormalities in your vulva or vagina. Specifically, examine yourself for blisters, sores, discharge and change in skin color, and consult a doctor if you notice anything unusual.  

8. Fatigue

If you suffer from fatigue that stops you from carrying out your normal duties, you need to see your doctor. Fatigue can be a sign that you have an underlying problem, including cancer. Although fatigue is more common with advanced cancer, it can occur at any stage.

9. Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

Apart from bleeding between periods, cancers of gynecological system present with other types of abnormal vaginal bleeding such as heavy periods, bleeding during or after sex. All these types of bleeding can indicate the presence of:

  • Ovarian cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Uterine cancer

10. Changes in the Breast

Make it a point to conduct a monthly self examination of your breasts. Be on the lookout for lumps, nipple discharge, soreness, redness, dimpling and swelling, and consult your doctor immediately if you observe any change.

Other Possible Causes of Bleeding Between Periods

1. Hormonal Imbalance

Your menstrual cycle is regulated by two main hormones: estrogen and progesterone. An imbalance between these two can cause spotting. The same can happen in case of dysfunctions in your ovaries and thyroid glands. And according to National Health Services of the UK, hormonal imbalance can also be caused by hormonal birth control methods such as contraceptive pills, contraceptive patch, IUDs, implants and contraceptive injections.

2. Complications During Pregnancy

Pregnancy complications such as miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy can cause abnormal bleeding. If a fertilized egg is lodged within a fallopian tube instead of the uterus, the result will be an ectopic pregnancy.

3. Uterine Fibroids

Many women who have had children get uterine fibroids at some point in their lives. These noncancerous uterine growths can cause abnormal vaginal bleeding.

4. Infection

Many infections of the female reproductive system can present with inflammation and abnormal bleeding. These include sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Bleeding can also occur as a result of sexual intercourse and douching.

When to See Your Doctor

If you notice any vaginal bleeding between periods, cancer could be the cause. However, to find out the truth and get a solution to the problem, visit your doctor who will organize necessary tests. Presence of additional symptoms could require you to have emergency medical attention. Such symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Pain
  • Dizziness

Once you get to a health facility, you will get a consultation and if necessary, undergo tests for STIs and pregnancy. The doctor may also find it necessary for you to get examined and tested in the following ways:

  • Bimanual examination of the vagina
  • Speculum examination
  • Cervical screening for women aged 25 to 64
  • Pelvic ultrasound scanning
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