Women past menopause who experience any abnormal vaginal bleeding or spotting should contact their physician. It's one of the signs of endometrial cancer.
Endometrial cancer doesn't get a lot of media attention. Yet, it's the fourth most common cancer in American women -- after breast, lung and colon cancers. When discovered early, endometrial cancer usually can be successfully treated.
The September issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource covers the common signs and symptoms for this cancer, which is most prevalent in women between the ages of 60 and 70. Signs include:
- Periods that are longer than usual, or bleeding between periods
- Periods occurring less than 21 days apart, or spotting in the years leading up to menopause
- Any vaginal bleeding after menopause, when periods no longer occur
- Pink or watery vaginal discharge
Some women with endometrial cancer also may experience pelvic pain, unexplained weight loss, and pain during intercourse. Although these symptoms may be associated with noncancerous conditions, they should be brought to the attention of a doctor.
There's no recommended screening test for endometrial cancer. Tests such as ultrasound imaging of the lining of the uterus or a biopsy of endometrial tissues are often used when symptoms are present. When it's discovered early, endometrial cancer is likely to be confined to the uterus. Removing the uterus often eliminates all of the cancer. This may be why early-stage endometrial cancer is successfully treated more than 90 percent of the time.