Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding as a Symptom of Gynecologic Cancer

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 bleeding or spotting, and hormonal fluctuations are often the culprit.

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

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

Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding

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

  • Heavy periods: Heavy periods lasting more than two cycles need to be reported to your healthcare provider. 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 healthcare provider immediately.
  • Bleeding between periods: Heavy spotting or an additional cycle in a month that occurs for more than two cycles should be evaluated by a healthcare provider.
  • 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 healthcare provider.
  • 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 healthcare provider.

Other Causes of Vaginal Bleeding

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


If you experience abnormal vaginal bleeding, your healthcare provider will ask you questions about when it occurs, 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 healthcare provider 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.


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.

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2 Sources
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  1. Merck Manual Professional Version. Vaginal Bleeding. Revised September 2018.

  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Abnormal Uterine Bleeding. March 2017.

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