Menopause is usually diagnosed in women over 45 who haven't had a period for more than a year. Any bleeding from the vagina after this needs to be checked by a GP.
See a GP if you have postmenopausal bleeding, even if:
- it's only happened once
- there's only a small amount of blood, spotting, or pink or brown discharge
- you don't have any other symptoms
- you're not sure if it's blood
Postmenopausal bleeding isn't usually serious, but can be a sign of cancer. Cancer is easier to treat if it's found early.
What happens at your GP appointment
Your GP should refer you to hospital or a special postmenopausal bleeding clinic for further tests.
If you're over 55, you shouldn't have to wait more than 2 weeks to see a specialist. If you're under 55, you may have to wait longer.
What happens at your hospital or clinic appointment
A specialist, who may be a nurse, will offer you tests to help find out what's causing the bleeding and plan any necessary treatment.
The tests may include:
- a small device being placed in your vagina to scan for any problems (vaginal ultrasound scan ↗)
- an examination of your pelvis and vagina
- a thin, telescope-like camera being passed up your vagina and into your womb to look for any problems (a hysteroscopy ↗) and to take a tissue sample (biopsy) for testing – under local or general anaesthetic
Causes of postmenopausal bleeding
There can be several causes of postmenopausal bleeding.
The most common causes are:
- inflammation and thinning of the vaginal lining (atrophic vaginitis ↗) or womb lining (endometrial atrophy) – caused by lower oestrogen levels
- cervical or womb polyps – growths that are usually non-cancerous
- a thickened womb lining (endometrial hyperplasia) – this can be caused by hormone replacement therapy (HRT) ↗, high levels of oestrogen or being overweight, and can lead to womb cancer
Less commonly, postmenopausal bleeding is caused by cancer.
Treatment for postmenopausal bleeding
Treatment depends on what's causing your bleeding.
|Cervical polyps||the polyps may need to be removed by a specialist|
|Endometrial atrophy||you may not need treatment, but may be offered oestrogen cream or pessaries|
|Endometrial hyperplasia ↗||depending on the type of hyperplasia, you may be offered no treatment, hormone medicine (tablets or an intrauterine system, IUS ↗) or a total hysterectomy ↗ (surgery to remove your uterus, cervix and ovaries)|
|Side effect of HRT||changing or stopping treatment|
|Womb cancer ↗||total hysterectomy will often be recommended|