An 18-year-old woman is referred with postcoital bleeding. It has occurred on approxi- mately seven occasions over the preceding 6 weeks. Generally it has been a small amount of bright red blood noticed a few hours after intercourse and lasting up to 2 days. There is no associated pain.
Her last menstrual period started 3 weeks ago and she bleeds for 4 days every 28 days. Her periods were previously quite heavy but are now lighter since she started the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP) 6 months ago. There is no history of an abnormal discharge or offensive odour and she has no dyspareunia.
She has had three sexual partners and has been with her current partner for 10 months. She has never been diagnosed with any sexually transmitted infection and has never had a smear test. She had an appendectomy at the age of 7 years and was diagnosed with epilepsy in childhood but has been off all medication for 8 years.
The abdomen is soft and non-tender. Speculum examination reveals a florid reddened area symmetrically surrounding the external cervical os with contact bleeding. The uterus is normal sized, anteverted and non-tender. There is no cervical excitation and the adnexae are unremarkable.
· What is the differential diagnosis?
· What further investigations would you perform for this woman?
· If your investigations are negative what is the likely diagnosis and how would you manage the woman?
Postcoital bleeding in a young woman is common and normally benign. In this specific case the examination findings are consistent only with cervical ectropion, malignancy or infection.
An STI screen should be performed:
· endocervical swab for chlamydia
· endocervical swab for gonorrhoea
· high vaginal swab for trichomonas (and candida, not a STI, but possibly a cause of irregular bleeding from vaginitis).
A cervical smear should also be taken to exclude cervical intraepithelial neoplasia or malignancy prior to treatment.
Assuming the swabs and smear are negative then the diagnosis is of cervical ectropion. This is particularly common around the time of puberty, in women using the COCP, and in pregnancy. It is not of clinical significance and is generally an incidental finding but warrants treatment if it causes embarrassing and troublesome bleeding (or discharge in some cases).
There are three options for treatment:
· stop the COCP and use alternative contraception
· cold coagulation of the cervix
· diathermy ablation of the ectocervix.