ZocdocAnswersWhat causes random spotting before one's period?

Question

What causes random spotting before one's period?

I know that for a woman to have random spotting before her period is supposed to be pretty normal. But I have a family history of ovarian cancer, and I don't want to take any chances. What actually causes spotting, and how can I tell if it's a sign of a deeper problem?

Answer

There can be many causes of spotting before a menstrual period. Many of these causes are benign, but others are not. Your primary care physician or your OB/GYN physician would both be qualified to discuss this issue with you. Physiological (normal) spotting tends to occurs in the few days after your period ends (end really just represents the tail end of the period) or about 2 weeks before your next cycle and represents ovulation. Spotting that occurs outside of these two timeframes has a higher likelihood of being abnormal. There are many potential causes. Some women have low levels of progesterone, an important menstrual hormone, which leads to spotting. Other times, spotting is caused by medicines that are taken for contraception. Sometimes benign growths in the uterus, called fibroids, or endometriosis can be causes of spotting. Other causes include sexually transmitted infections or pre-cancerous or cancerous changes of the cervix. Rarely, especially in older women, spotting can be a sign of a more serious problem, such as cancer of the uterus. Similarly, in rare cases spotting can be associated with ovarian cancer, usually in the setting of other symptoms, such as abdominal pain or bloating and urinary symptoms. As always, diagnosis and treatment of this problem will require an examination by a personal physician. Scheduling an appointment with your primary care doctor or OB/GYN doctor is recommended.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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