If you have postmenopausal bleeding, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible. It could be caused by a number of health problems, some of which are serious.
Here are the most common causes of postmenopausal bleeding.
Causes of Postmenopausal Bleeding
Polyps: These are growths, usually noncancerous, that can develop in the uterus, on the cervix, or inside the cervical canal. They might cause bleeding.
Endometrial atrophy (thinning of the endometrium): The endometrium, the tissue that lines the uterus, can become very thin after menopause because of lower estrogen levels. This may cause unexpected bleeding.
Endometrial hyperplasia: In this condition, the lining of the uterus becomes thick, and bleeding may occur as a result. Obesity may be the cause of the problem. Some people with endometrial hyperplasia may have abnormal cells that can lead to endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterine lining).
Endometrial cancer (uterine cancer): Bleeding after menopause can be a sign of endometrial cancer.
Figuring Out the Cause of Postmenopausal Bleeding
Your doctor can determine the cause of your bleeding by taking your medical history and doing a physical exam and a few tests. Tests may include:
Endometrial biopsy : A thin tube is inserted into your uterus, and a tiny sample of the uterine lining is removed. It's sent to a lab to look for anything unusual.
Saline-infused sonogram: Saline is placed in the uterus through the cervix with a small, thin tube. The doctor looks by ultrasound to see if there are any masses within the uterine lining. It's often done along with an endometrial biopsy.
Hysteroscopy: During this test, your doctor uses an instrument with a light and small camera to examine the inside of the uterus and look for problems.
D&C ( dilation and curettage ): This test allows your doctor to remove tissue from the uterus lining, so it can be sent to a lab for analysis.
Ultrasound and biopsy can be performed in your doctor's office. Hysteroscopy and D&C are usually done in a hospital or outpatient surgical center.
How Is Postmenopausal Bleeding Treated?
Treatment depends on what's causing the bleeding.
If polyps are to blame, surgery may be needed to remove them.
Endometrial atrophy can be treated with medication alone.
Endometrial hyperplasia may be treated with medication, such as progestin or progesterone therapy, or surgery to remove thickened areas of the endometrium. If you have endometrial hyperplasia, you'll need to get checked by your doctor on a regular basis.
How Is Endometrial Cancer Treated?
Endometrial cancer can be treated with a total hysterectomy, a surgery in which the uterus and cervix are removed. In some cases, part of the vagina will also be removed; the ovaries and fallopian tubes may also be removed, along with nearby lymph nodes.
Although bleeding on and off during perimenopause is normal, bleeding after menopause is not. Any postmenopausal bleeding, regardless of how light it is, should be checked out by your doctor as soon as possible.
Although there is a very good chance that something minor is causing the bleeding, there is also a chance that cancer could be to blame. If it is cancer, the sooner you get treated, the more likely you are to have a full recovery.