Health Topics

What Women Should Know about Breast Cancer
One of the most common cancers for women is breast cancer, which is caused by cells in the body changing and spreading to eventually form a lump or mass called a tumor.

Most breast cancers begin either in the breast tissue made up of glands for producing milk or in the tubes that connect these glands to the nipple. It is usually detected either during a mammography screening, before symptoms have been developed, or after a woman notices a lump in her breast. Therefore, understanding the risk factors, knowing the symptoms and finding ways to talk with your doctor about breast cancer are important for women’s overall health and wellbeing.

To understand when symptoms may appear, women should be familiar with their breasts and be able to detect any changes or abnormalities to discuss with their doctor. Starting at the age of 40, women also have the option to receive a mammogram, which is a x-ray that helps doctors see possible tumors in the breast tissue.

It is also important for women to receive regular health screenings to detect changes in their health. If your doctor does notice anything strange in your breast, he/she may recommend a biopsy of the breast tissue to take a closer look.

What are the risk factors?
According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Risk factors include:

  • Age. The strongest risk factor is age. Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year. The risks for breast cancer increase with age and most are diagnosed after age 50.
  • Family history.  A woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a close relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • Weight. Women who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk.
  • Inherited changes in DNA. Abnormal changes to certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, passed from parents put women at a higher risk.
  • Hormone therapy. Taking hormones to replace estrogen and progesterone in menopause for more than five years raises the risk for breast cancer.

What are the symptoms?
Breast cancer can produce symptoms in the early stages where the tumor is small and most easily treated, which is why routine screenings are so important.

The most common physical symptom of breast cancer is a painless lump. Keep in mind that certain breast cancers can spread to underarm lymph nodes and cause a lump or swelling before the original breast tumor is large enough to be felt.

Less common signs include:

  • Breast pain or heaviness
  • Swelling, thickening or redness of the skin
  • Spontaneous discharge from the nipple
  • Nipple erosion or retraction

What can you do?
There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, but there are things you can do that might help lower your risk, such as addressing the risk factors that are under your control. If you think you have any of the risk factors or symptoms for breast cancer or you are older than 40, you should talk with your doctor or healthcare provider about getting a mammogram to check for breast cancer. Early detection by mammography leads to a greater range of treatment options. You can find a doctor using the Find a Doctor tool.

Learn More
If you have breast cancer, you may be eligible to receive benefits from Medicaid for Breast and Cervical Cancer. Contact a Breast and Cervical Cancer Services clinic to see if you qualify for this Medicaid program. You can use the Find a Doctor tool to find a clinic offering application assistance.

Any woman can be at risk for cervical cancer, a disease in which cells in the cervix begin to grow out of control. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cervical cancer occurs in about 12,000 women in the United States each year.

Some health or lifestyle factors can put you at higher risk for cervical cancer, including having the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Other factors that can increase your risk for cervical cancer include:

  • Smoking
  • Having Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Having a weaker immune system

What are the symptoms?
In the early stages of cervical cancer, women may not have any symptoms.  This is why it is so important to get routine cervical cancer screenings. In the advanced stages of cervical cancer, women may experience the following symptoms:

  • Bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal such as bleeding or discharge between periods or after menopause
  • Pain during sex

Learn More
Cervical cancer can be caught early by receiving a regular Pap test, which checks for precancers or cell changes in the cervix. The Healthy Texas Woman program and the Breast and Cervical Cancer Services provide these cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic services.

If you are a woman between the ages of 21-65, you should talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about getting a Pap test to check for cervical cancer. You can find a doctor using the Find a Doctor tool.

If you are diagnosed with cervical cancer, you may be eligible to receive Medicaid benefits from Medicaid for Breast and Cervical Cancer. Contact a Breast and Cervical Cancer Services clinic to see if you qualify for this Medicaid program. You can use the Find a Doctor tool to find a clinic offering application assistance.  

Having children is a milestone in many people’s lives, and family planning and birth control options play an important role for many women and men. Some may decide they are not ready for children. Others would like to decide how many children they want to have or how far apart their children are in age. 

Finding what’s right for you
There are a wide range of family planning and birth control options available to women and men, including:

Short-Acting Hormonal Contraceptives: 
These methods are prescribed by your doctor or healthcare provider, and can be up to 99% effective when used or taken correctly every time. These may include:

  • Oral contraceptive pills
  • Patch
  • Vaginal ring
  • Contraceptive shot

Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives: 
These methods are placed or inserted by your doctor or healthcare provider.  They can last for 3 to 10 years, depending on the method, and can be up to 99% effective. These may include:

  • Intrauterine devices (IUD)
  • Implants 

Barrier Methods:
These methods are used every time people have sex to prevent pregnancy, and can be 94% to 98% effective if used correctly every time. These methods may include:

  • Male or female condoms
  • Spermicides
  • Diaphragm
  • Cervical Cap

Natural Family Planning Method:
This method involves tracking your menstrual cycle to figure out which days you are most fertile and likely to get pregnant. This method includes:

  • Taking your body temperature
  • Recording your periods

Permanent Sterilization:
This method may prevent pregnancy for the rest of your life and is performed through surgery or a medical procedure. This method can be 99% effective as there are rare cases in which the procedure does not work. This method may include:

  • Tubal ligation (women)
  • Vasectomy (men) 

Abstinence:
This method involves avoiding sex completely to prevent pregnancy. This method is 100% effective.

Learn More
Family planning services and birth control options are available through both the Healthy Texas Women program and the Family Planning Program. Contact your healthcare provider or find a doctor using the Find a Doctor tool to discuss which option will best work for you.

Maintaining positive relationships with your family and significant others is an important part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. An abusive relationship will have a negative impact on your physical, mental and emotional well-being.

In some cases, it can be hard to tell if your significant other is becoming abusive. However, you can look for some of the following behaviors:

  • Telling you that you can never do anything right.
  • Keeping you or discouraging you from seeing friends or family members.
  • Controlling every penny spent in the household.
  • Looking at you or acting in ways that scare you.
  • Preventing you from making your own decisions.
  • Intimidating you with guns, knives or other weapons.

Abusive relationships are serious. If you think you need help, there are programs and services available.

Getting Help

The National Domestic Violence program provides a 24-hour crisis hotline that offers the following services:

  • Someone who will pick you up and take you to a safe place or home anytime — day or night.
  • Emergency medical care.
  • People who will give you support and help you work through your problems.
  • Legal help in the civil and criminal justice systems.
  • Help with keeping your children in school.
  • Job training and help getting a job.
  • Help getting other services you need.

If you need help, call the hotline any time at 1-800-799-7233.

People with a speech or hearing disability looking for help can call the following numbers:

  • 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
  • 1-206-518-9361 (video phone)

More information is also available at the following websites. Click a link below.

Your mental, emotional and social well-being are important to your overall health. These factors can affect the way you think, feel and act in your daily life.

Mental health issues affect about one in five adults in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It covers a wide range of conditions such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse problems. Early warning signs that someone may be suffering from mental health concerns could include:

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little.
  • Smoking or drinking more than usual.
  • Using illegal drugs or abusing medications such as opioids.
  • Severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships.
  • Thinking of harming yourself or others.
  • Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school.

If you’ve experienced any of these problems or are concerned about your mental health or the mental health of a family member or friend, there are resources available to help you.

Getting Help

The first step is to find mental health resources and services in your area. There are organizations that can provide you with access to mental health testing, education, counseling and support groups. For more information, click on one of the links below.

If you are facing a medical emergency, please dial 9-1-1.

If you are thinking about suicide, please call:

  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or TTY 1-800-799-4TTY (4889)
  • Red Nacional de Prevencion del Suicidio: 1-888-628-9454
  • Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1

As a new mom, taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your new baby. Having your baby can bring in a world of emotions – happiness, relief, exhaustion, anxiety and more – and finding balance and support for you and your baby are important to create a happy, healthy home.

Make sure to get enough sleep, eat right and exercise. And, if you’re not feeling like yourself, reach out to someone for help or support. Going to your postpartum appointments is an important part of protecting your health, and your doctor is a great resource for providing guidance and tips.

Your emotional health is also an important aspect of being a new mom. Postpartum depression affects as many as one in seven women, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Postpartum depression often appears one to three weeks after childbirth, but might start during pregnancy or up to a year after birth. The symptoms include:

  • Feelings of guilt
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Trouble bonding with your baby

Contact your healthcare provider today if you have recently given birth and are experiencing these symptoms. It’s important to notify your doctor about your symptoms and get treatment, such as counseling, as soon as possible.

Getting Help

To learn more about resources that could help you with healthcare or financial support, call 2-1-1, or visit the below websites:

For more information about keeping you and your baby healthy and safe as well as learning more about medical conditions, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/after.html.

Nutrition is important for a healthy lifestyle because it can help lower your risk for health conditions such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Eating healthy doesn't have to be hard or expensive either. With a little bit of planning for the week ahead, you can maintain a healthy lifestyle for both you and your family – while staying within budget.

Getting Help

Here are helpful resources to find healthy foods and plan a nutritious diet on a limited budget:

It can be a challenge to quit smoking. However, it’s an important step you can take to protect the health of you and your loved ones.

People who quit smoking often experience a number of health, financial and social benefits, including:

  • Lowering your risk for certain diseases and conditions such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, and infertility in women.
  • Improving your mood and reducing anxiety symptoms.
  • Saving money spent on cigarettes.
  • Increasing your chances of having healthier babies.
  • Setting a better, healthier example for your children and loved ones.

Are you ready to quit smoking? There are effective programs and services to help you achieve this goal.

Getting Help

The good news is you don’t have to quit smoking on your own. Research shows you can double your chances of quitting smoking for good by using Quit Line services.

To get started, here are some available resources:

  • The American Cancer Society’s Quit for Life Program is an easy-to-follow online program to help you quit smoking.
  • Call the toll-free Texas Tobacco Quit Line at 1-877-YES-QUIT (937-7848) for free and confidential one-on-one counseling and support services.

Type 2 Diabetes is a preventable, life-long disease in which there is a high level of sugar in the blood. It can put women at a higher risk for health issues like blindness, depression and heart disease. Type 2 Diabetes also can make it more difficult to get pregnant or increase the risk of health problems during pregnancy that can affect the baby’s health.

More than 13 million women are affected by Type 2 Diabetes, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and it’s important to know that there are certain health and lifestyle factors that can put you at higher risk. These factors can include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Family history of diabetes

What are the symptoms?
Some people with Type 2 Diabetes may experience no symptoms. However, some common symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes can include:

  • Increased thirst and hunger
  • Frequent urination 
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
  • Tingling, pain or numbness in the hands or feet

Women may also experience other symptoms, including: 

  • Vaginal and oral yeast infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Learn More
Diabetes screenings and treatments are available through the Healthy Texas Women program. If you think you have any of the symptoms or risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes, contact your healthcare provider about getting your blood sugar checked or find a doctor using the Find a Doctor tool.  

Living a healthy lifestyle today is important for many reasons, including your possible future pregnancy. Whether a baby is just around the corner or years from now, your health today can affect you and your baby’s emotional, physical and mental well-being in the future.

Discovering your best balanced life can feel overwhelming. Here are some ways you can take control:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Stop smoking
  • Find stress relief
  • Create a healthy living environment

Setting goals for yourself can help you achieve your healthiest self and, for women, this includes setting a reproductive plan, like deciding between abstinence, birth control and natural family planning. Understanding your options is important, and there are programs and services available to help you.

Getting Help

Visit www.SomedayStartsNow.com to find Lifestyle Guides, birth planning tools and more information on taking control of your life.

Or call (512) 776-7373 for more information.

What is the Zika Virus?

The Zika virus is spread through the bite of certain types of mosquitoes. While it can cause fever, rash, joint pain and red or pink eyes, about 80 percent of people with Zika do not become ill or show no signs of symptoms. Zika also can be spread through blood transfusions and sexual contact.

Should I Worry?

Most of Texas has a long mosquito season and many people travel to places where Zika is active. This means you have a great chance of coming into contact with the Zika virus and potentially spreading it to your loved ones and other Texans.

The Zika virus also can be spread from mother to child, if the mother is infected with the Zika virus during pregnancy. The Zika virus has been linked to birth defects such as microcephaly, a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected and can cause development delays.

If you have any concerns or think you might have Zika, talk to your doctor.

What Can I Do to Prevent Zika?

Healthy Texas Women and the Family Planning Program will add mosquito repellent as a covered benefit for eligible clients as a year-round benefit, starting Feb. 12.

The programs will cover the cost of mosquito repellent for eligible women and girls ages 10-55, pregnant women of any age and males 14 and older.

For Healthy Texas Women clients, many pharmacies can provide you mosquito repellent without a prescription from your doctor. Contact your favorite pharmacy to make sure they are participating in this benefit.

To find your pharmacy's phone number, you can use the Pharmacy Search on the Vendor Drug Program website.

Clients can present their Healthy Texas Women ID card just like they would with any prescription.

For Family Planning Program clients, supplies can be picked up at a participating Family Planning Program clinic.

The mosquito repellent benefit is also offered in the following Texas programs:

  • Medicaid
  • Children's Health Insurance Program
  • CHIP-Perinatal
  • Children with Special Health Care Needs services program
  • Title V Prenatal Medical Fee for Service Program

Please check with each program for eligibility requirements, because they are not the same for all programs.

Currently, there is no vaccine or treatment for the Zika virus. Your best protection to avoid infection is to prevent mosquito breeding and protect yourself from mosquito bites. You also can take these simple steps to protect you and your loved ones from the Zika virus.

When you’re outside:

  • Apply EPA-approved insect repellent.
  • Wear pants and long-sleeve shirts that cover exposed skin.

When you’re at home:

  • Use screens or close windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of your home.
  • Remove standing water in and around your home, including water in cans, toys, tires, plant saucers or any container that can hold water.
  • Cover trash cans or containers that can hold water.

If you’re pregnant:

  • Protect yourself from sexual transmission. Consider abstaining from sex or use condoms correctly.
  • Avoid travel to regions where the Zika virus is active.

Learn More

You can find more information about the Zika virus at:

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