Bleeding is the most common symptom of uterine cancer. If you experience irregular bleeding, especially after menopause, it’s important to see a doctor.

Uterine cancer, including endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma, happens when the cells in the endometrium grow too quickly. As a result, the uterine lining thickens and forms tumors. If untreated, the cancer may spread to other areas of your body.

Unusual or atypical bleeding is often the first symptom of uterine cancer. Here’s what bleeding may look like with cancer, why it happens, and when you need to see a doctor or other healthcare professional.

Learn more about uterine cancer.

Uterine cancer bleeding may be any color from red to pink, brown to black – it depends on things like how quickly the blood is flowing, how fast it’s exiting your body, and whether it’s mixed with discharge.

After menopause, vaginal bleeding of any color or appearance is considered unusual. You need to see a doctor or other healthcare professional as soon as possible if you have any spotting or bleeding after menopause.

Atypical bleeding due to cancer doesn’t look the same for every person who menstruates. For one person, it may look like much heavier menstrual periods. For another person, it may be light spotting not related to ovulation or period.

This bleeding may happen at any time of the month. You may also experience a change in your usual vaginal discharge.

Unusual bleeding before menopause

Before menopause, some individuals may experience irregular bleeding throughout the menstrual cycle. Often this bleeding is benign, meaning it doesn’t indicate an underlying condition and may be caused by many typical things like bleeding with ovulation or spotting before the usual end of your menstrual period.

But bleeding may also be due to underlying issues, such as fibroids or, rarely, cancer.

Was this helpful?

With uterine cancers, the cancer cells or tumors grow in the lining of your uterus. This growth causes the lining to thicken beyond what’s normal. When the lining becomes very thick, the endometrial tissue will eventually shed and cause bleeding from the vagina.

For many people, this bleeding may be heavy. Bleeding that soaks through a tampon or pad every hour is considered heavy. But some individuals may only experience light bleeding or spotting. Others may only have abnormal discharge with no blood.

If you experience unusual bleeding, especially if you’re postmenopausal, make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible. Postmenopausal bleeding is the main symptom of uterine cancer. But even after menopause, this bleeding may also be caused by things like polyps, cysts, and other benign causes. A doctor can help you find the cause of your bleeding.

Seeing a doctor is especially important if you’ve already gone through menopause. All bleeding after menopause is considered atypical and should be checked out – even if it’s just light spotting.

Additional risk factors that may increase the risk of uterine cancer include:

The most common type of uterine cancer (type 1 endometrial cancer) is typically slow growing. For this reason, you may not have many symptoms besides abnormal bleeding in the early stages.

Symptoms of advancing uterine cancer include:

Only 5–10% of people who report bleeding after menopause will go on to receive a diagnosis of cancer. More than 66,000 people receive a diagnosis of uterine cancer each year in the United States.

Uterine cancer treatment is highly effective if the cancer is diagnosed early. More than 90% of individuals with stage 1 endometrial cancer are cancer-free 5 or more years after they finish treatment. When all types of uterine cancer are taken into account, the 5-year survival rate is 81%.

Do you bleed constantly with uterine cancer?

No. Some individuals may only have occasional bleeding or spotting, whereas others may have a heavier, more constant flow.

What does uterine cancer bleeding look like?

Bleeding caused by uterine cancer can look like typical period bleeding, spotting, or heavy bleeding. The color may vary from pink, light red, brown, black, or any color in between. If you see any type of vaginal bleeding or spotting after menopause, contact a doctor.

How often is unusual uterine bleeding cancer?

Fewer than 10% of individuals who report unusual bleeding will receive a diagnosis of cancer. Of those who receive a diagnosis of cancer, around 90% report unusual or atypical bleeding as a symptom.

The main symptom of uterine cancer is bleeding after menopause. This bleeding can look like any type of vaginal bleeding or spotting, and the blood may be any color from light pink to black or dark brown.

Up to one-third of individuals will experience unusual vaginal bleeding at some point in their lives. Although there are many reasons for unusual bleeding, it’s important to get it checked out – especially if you’re postmenopausal.

Uterine cancer is most common in postmenopausal individuals over the age of 60. Make an appointment with a doctor to discuss any abnormal bleeding, especially after menopause.