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Postmenopausal bleeding

Menopause is usually diagnosed in women over 45 who have not had a period for more than a year. Any bleeding from the vagina after this time needs to be checked by a GP.

Non-urgent advice: 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 do not have any other symptoms
  • you're not sure if it's blood

Postmenopausal bleeding is not 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

The GP should refer you to hospital or a special postmenopausal bleeding clinic. You should not have to wait more than 2 weeks to see a specialist.

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 speculum (plastic device) may be inserted into your vagina to hold it open, so the inside of the vagina and the cervix can be seen
  • a thin, telescope-like camera being passed up your vagina, through the cervix 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
  • the specialist may press on your tummy and inside your vagina to check for lumps, tenderness or other abnormalities

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, such as ovarian and womb cancer.

Treatment for postmenopausal bleeding

Treatment depends on what's causing your bleeding.