Tracking Your Period Is Crucial for Diagnosing PCOS

Though the risk is 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 healthcare provider 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 healthcare provider 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 healthcare provider 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 (premenstrual 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 healthcare provider if you go for longer than three months without a period. If your periods usually come monthly of more frequently you may want to speak with your provider even sooner.

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 metformin (formerly marketed as Glucophage) or medroxyprogesterone (Provera)

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

Don’t hesitate to ask your healthcare provider 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 practitioner, and with clear communication between both of you, you should be able to find something that works.

You should also mention it to your healthcare provider if you are having severe symptoms of PMS. 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).

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ding DC, Chen W, Wang JH, Lin SZ. Association between polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometrial, ovarian, and breast cancer: a population-based cohort study in Taiwan. Medicine (Baltimore). 2018;97(39):e12608. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000012608

  2. National Cancer Institute. Endometrial cancer treatment (PDQ)—health professional version.

  3. Li K, Urteaga I, Wiggins CH, et al. Characterizing physiological and symptomatic variation in menstrual cycles using self-tracked mobile-health data. NPJ Digit Med. 2020;3(1):79. doi:10.1038/s41746-020-0269-8

  4. Heshmati N, Shahgheibi S, Nikkhoo B, Amini S, Abdi M. Association of prooxidant–antioxidant balance with clinical and laboratory parameters and its relation to different drug regimens in polycystic ovary syndrome women with normal BMI. Ind J Clin Biochem. 2017;32(3):315-322. doi:10.1007/s12291-016-0613-6

By Nicole Galan, RN
Nicole Galan, RN, is a registered nurse and the author of "The Everything Fertility Book."