Tracking Your Period Is Crucial for Diagnosing PCOS

Though small, women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have a slightly increased risk of developing endometrial cancer. The more irregular and sparse periods a woman has, the greater her risk becomes. For that reason, it's important to keep track of your periods so that you can inform your doctor of any abnormalities.

Young woman talking with her doctor


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What Happens During Your Period

During a normal menstrual cycle, the endometrium is exposed to hormones, like estrogen, which cause the lining to proliferate and thicken. When ovulation does not occur, which is typical in PCOS, the lining is not shed and is exposed to much higher amounts of estrogen causing the endometrium to grow much thicker than normal. This is what increases the chance of cancer cells beginning to grow.

The average menstrual cycle ranges between 25 and 38 days. While it's normal to have the occasional cycle that is shorter or longer than that, let your doctor know if your periods are consistently outside of that range.

What to Keep Track of

It can be easy to lose track of your period and cycles, especially with the demands of everyday life. For that reason, recording the dates of your period can give you and your doctor valuable information about your cycles. Below is a list of what things you should record about your period:

  • The dates of your periods, recording both the first and last day of each one
  • Note how far apart your cycles are, from the start of one period to the start of the next
  • Note the heaviness of your flow (spotting, scant, medium or heavy)
  • Note any symptoms that you are experiencing. Examples of relevant symptoms include acne, moodiness, cramping, breast tenderness, bloating, diarrhea or nausea.
  • Write down anything else that seems extreme or particularly bothersome.
  • Eventually, you may want to also keep track of how you feel one week before the start of your periods to note any PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) symptoms you may have.

How to Keep Track of Your Periods

There are many options for tracking your period; many women use a small calendar that they keep with them, others use apps specially designed for their phone or computer. It doesn’t matter how or where you keep track of the above information, just that you do it consistently.

What to Do With the Information You Collect About Your Periods

You should speak to your doctor if you are getting fewer than 9 periods per year. Keep in mind that this does not apply if you are taking a birth control pill, especially one designed to prevent you from getting your period more than once every few months. The pill keeps your hormone levels low, and endometrial lining thin, dramatically reducing your risk of endometrial cancer.

There are some very simple ways that you can control your period and ensure that your uterus sheds its lining regularly:

  • Losing weight
  • Taking the birth control pill
  • Taking medications such as Glucophage or Provera

Of course, you should speak with your doctor before starting to take any medication. Some women may not be a good candidate to take a particular medication, or their doctor may have a preference for a certain regimen.

Don't hesitate to ask your doctor about other alternatives, or why a certain treatment is recommended versus another. And above all, if you feel uncomfortable with the suggested plan, mention it. The regimen needs to be acceptable for both you and your doctor, and with clear communication between both of you, you should be able to find something that works.

You should also mention it to your doctor if you are having severe symptoms of PMS or during your period. Often times, these symptoms can be reduced or eliminated entirely by taking the birth control pill. Many brands of the pill have been shown to reduce mild acne and can help manage insomnia or moodiness by regulating your hormone levels. The pill can also prevent you from getting sore breasts and stomach upset (like nausea or diarrhea) because you are not ovulating (ovulation causes increased progesterone levels, which causes these symptoms).

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