Is Spotting Between Periods a Sign of Cancer?

Vaginal bleeding—also known as spotting—between periods is common among women who have not yet reached menopause. Most commonly, it is caused by hormonal imbalances, stress, and vaginal dryness.

Vaginal bleeding in post-menopausal women can, in some cases, be an early sign of cancer and should always be investigated further. Spotting is the primary symptom of uterine cancer and can also indicate fallopian tube or cervical cancer. Bleeding after intercourse can be another sign of cervical cancer.

“Any post-menopausal bleeding should warrant a visit to a gynecologist,” says Ursula Matulonis, MD, chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Ursula Matulonis, MD.
Ursula Matulonis, MD.

While vaginal bleeding is most concerning for women who have undergone menopause, new and heavy bleeding between periods for pre-menopausal women should also prompt a visit to the obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) or primary care provider.

If you experience any abnormal vaginal bleeding, it is important to talk with your OB-GYN or primary care provider. If the bleeding is related to cancer, a conversation with your doctor can lead to an earlier diagnosis and better prognosis. Even if the bleeding is not related to cancer, talking with your doctor can help him or her determine the cause and the best treatment for you.

Learn more about gynecologic cancers from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.