Unusual vaginal discharge may be a symptom of uterine cancer, though it may have other causes. Discharge that’s different in quantity, consistency, color, and odor from what’s typical for you may warrant a visit to the doctor.

Uterine cancer begins in the uterus, or womb, and is the most common cancer of the female reproductive tract. It’s estimated that there will be 67,880 new diagnoses of uterine cancer in the United States in 2024.

Endometrial cancer is one of two types of uterine cancer. It begins in the inner lining of the uterus and is more common than uterine sarcoma, which starts in the muscular tissue of the uterus.

Atypical vaginal discharge is a common symptom of uterine cancer. A 2016 study of 75 people with endometrial cancer found that 55.4% of participants reported abnormal vaginal discharge before their diagnosis.

Vaginal discharge is typically clear to milky white and often has no strong odor. If you menstruate, the color, quantity, and consistency of your vaginal discharge may vary according to where you are in your menstrual cycle.

Unusual vaginal discharge happens when there’s a noticeable change in your vaginal discharge from what’s usual for you. This may include changes in:

Often, atypical vaginal discharge is a symptom of another health condition, such as an infection. Regardless, it’s a good idea to work with a healthcare professional to explore possible causes and next steps.

Unusual uterine bleeding is generally the most common early symptom of both endometrial cancer and uterine sarcomas.

Atypical uterine bleeding may involve bleeding that happens:

If you menstruate, uterine bleeding may also involve noticeable changes to your period from what’s typical for you. This can mean that your periods may become:

  • heavier
  • longer
  • irregular

As with vaginal discharge, unusual uterine bleeding can be a symptom of other health conditions and not only cancer. However, if you’re experiencing atypical bleeding, a healthcare professional may help you rule out causes.

Advanced uterine cancer may present with the following symptoms:

Often, atypical vaginal discharge is due to an infection. A 2020 review notes that the following three infections are the most common causes of atypical vaginal discharge:

Other infections that may lead to atypical vaginal discharge may include other STIs, like:

Noninfectious causes of atypical vaginal discharge may include:

A visit to a healthcare professional may be warranted if you have persistent atypical vaginal discharge. As mentioned earlier, this is any change in your vaginal discharge that’s a departure from what’s usual for you. This can include changes like:

  • quantity, such as a substantial increase or decrease in discharge
  • consistency, such as discharge that’s very thick, clumpy, or frothy
  • color, such as colors other than clear to white
  • odor, such as a strong or foul smell

It’s also important to contact a medical professional if you have any of the other symptoms associated with uterine cancer, particularly unusual uterine bleeding.

Contacting your healthcare team about concerning symptoms is important because the outlook for uterine cancer is best when a doctor detects it early. In fact, doctors find 67% of uterine cancers while they’re only in the uterus, and the 5-year survival rate for cancer at this stage is estimated at about 94.9%.

Most of the time, symptoms like abnormal vaginal discharge are due to other, more common health conditions. However, a doctor will still need to evaluate and address these conditions.

Unusual vaginal discharge is a common symptom of uterine cancer. This is any change in discharge quantity, consistency, color, or odor from what you’re used to.

Another very common uterine cancer symptom is atypical uterine bleeding. Some examples of this include bleeding after menopause, spotting between periods, or having periods that are irregular or very heavy.

If you experience atypical vaginal discharge, it’s important that you contact a healthcare professional. They can explore possible causes and then develop a treatment plan.