Why Some Women Bleed Years Into Menopause

Menopause is a time in a female's life when they stop having regular periods. Per MedlinePlus, menopause happens when a female's ovaries stop producing two key sex hormones: estrogen and progesterone.

Menopause typically happens around age 45, although there is a range, and a female is considered to be in menopause when they have not had a period for an entire year. However, while menopause typically means the end of bleeding for most women, there are a few reasons why some may experience bleeding after menopause.

According to a 2018 study in JAMA Internal Medicine, common reasons for post-menopausal bleeding include endometrial polyps (uterine growths) or bleeding related to hormone therapy. Other reasons for vaginal bleeding post-menopause include vaginal atrophy (thinning and drying of the vagina) or uterine fibroids, per Harvard Health Publishing.

However, while many cases of vaginal bleeding after menopause are less concerning, vaginal bleeding may also signify various reproductive cancers. For example, according to the study in JAMA Internal Medicine, 9% of women in the study who experienced post-menopausal vaginal bleeding were diagnosed with endometrial cancer. And approximately 90% of women diagnosed with endometrial cancer experienced post-menopausal bleeding.

Endometrial cancer and bleeding after menopause

What the statistic from the JAMA Internal Medicine study means is that if you experience vaginal bleeding years after menopause, there is a good chance it is related to something benign. However, because post-menopausal vaginal bleeding is such a common symptom of endometrial cancer, it is important to get it checked out by a healthcare provider to rule out serious causes of bleeding.

According to the American Cancer Society, other signs of endometrial cancer include pelvic pain, feeling an abdominal mass, and losing weight without trying.

If you do experience vaginal bleeding after menopause, your healthcare provider may decide to rule out endometrial cancer. Per the American Cancer Society, no screening test currently exists for endometrial cancer.

If endometrial cancer is suspected, the American Cancer Society explains that the most common test is a tissue sample, often through a biopsy. This is a procedure that can be done in your health care provider's office and is where a small sample of endometrial cells is collected to look for the presence of cancer.

The key takeaway is that vaginal bleeding years into menopause may be due to normal vaginal health changes that occur during menopause, such as vaginal dryness caused by vaginal atrophy. However, it is also a symptom of endometrial cancer. Reach out to a healthcare provider for advice if you are postmenopausal and experiencing vaginal bleeding.