Bleeding After The Menopause
OMNI evaluates women with bleeding after menopause also known as post-menopausal bleeding.
A woman is considered to be menopausal when a year has passed since her last period. Any bleeding after this time is always considered to be potentially abnormal. In fact only a small proportion of women who bleed after the menopause have anything significantly wrong.
However, on occasion bleeding after menopause can be a sign of pre-cancerous changes or even cancers. One form of cancer that bleeding after menopause can be symptomatic of is endometrial cancer. This form of cancer is a growth of abnormal cells in the lining of the uterus (endometrium). Endometrial cancer is also known as uterine cancer and most often occurs in women over the age of 50.
With this in mind it is important that bleeding after the menopause is investigated thoroughly.
Once oestrogen levels drop after the menopause the skin of the vagina becomes thinner, and bleeding may result from this. Problems with the cervix may also be a causative factor. So any assessment must include a cervical smear, which will mean that the skin of the vagina will be examined as part of this procedure.
The role of ultrasound
Bleeding may also come from the lining of the womb or endometrial cavity. Normally the lining is very thin as there is little oestrogen circulating to stimulate it. This lining can be measured using ultrasound, furthermore any other problems in the cavity of the uterus (womb) can also be seen. There are many studies that show that if the lining of the uterus is thin (< 5mm), then it is very unlikely that there is anything significantly wrong.
In this way ultrasound can be used to reduce the need for unnecessary and more intrusive investigation. If the endometrial thickness is increased, then Saline Infusion Sonohysterography (SIS) will exclude intra-cavitary focal lesions such as endometrial polyps. In the absence of focal endometrial pathology, a small sample of the womb lining needs to be examined in order to exclude problems (taking a biopsy). This can be carried out as an outpatient procedure in some cases, but may require an examination under a brief general anaesthetic. Importantly, most women with post-menopausal bleeding do not have anything seriously wrong.