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General Medical Questions
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Question : I am 54 years old. I went through menopause at age 51. Recently I have noticed some vaginal spotting. What would cause this now?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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November 30, 2012
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A:

Menopause is the time in a woman's life after her last period. It is defined as no bleeding for at least one year.

Once a woman goes a whole year without a period, any new bleeding is called post-menopausal bleeding.

There are many conditions that cause post-menopausal bleeding. Most are not cancerous (benign). But pre-cancerous conditions and cancer of the reproductive organs must still be considered. For example, uterine cancer often causes bleeding as an early warning sign. It is important not to miss an opportunity to diagnose and treat it early. Then success rates are so much higher.

Postmenopausal bleeding requires a pelvic exam. It also requires other tests, such as pelvic ultrasound, a pap smear and a biopsy of the uterus. All women with bleeding after menopause should see their doctor as quickly as possible.

If a woman has bleeding after menopause and no cancer and other growths are found, it is possible that the ovaries have started to produce hormones again. But this becomes rarer as more time goes by.

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