Women's Health

Spotlight on Women’s Health

Right now is a great time to take good care of your health. Learn about these topics that are especially important for women, including screenings and treatments that can have a lasting health impact on you and your family. 

Table of Contents

  1. Women and Heart Disease
  2. Breast Cancer
  3. Cervical Cancer
  4. Chlamydia
  5. Colorectal Cancer
  6. Maternity (Free Program to Support Expectant Mothers!)

Women and Heart Disease

What is heart disease?

Heart Disease refers to several types of heart conditions, including coronary artery disease and heart attacks. It is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, killing 299,578 women in 2017. 1 Almost as many women as men die each year of heart disease in the United States.  About 1 in 16 women age 20 and older (6.2%) have coronary heart disease, the most common type of heart disease:

 

What are heart disease symptoms in women? 

Often, women do not have symptoms. When they do occur, symptoms may include:

  • Angina (dull and heavy or sharp chest pain or discomfort)
  • Pain in the neck, jaw, or throat
  • Pain in the upper abdomen or back
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue

Sometimes heart disease may not be diagnosed until you have other symptoms or emergencies, including:

  • Heart attack: Chest pain or discomfort, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, dizziness, and shortness of breath
  • Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations)
  • Heart failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, or swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck 

How does my doctor test for heart disease?

Your doctor will perform a physical exam, including blood pressure and heart rate, ask about symptoms, and gather family medical history. Blood tests could be taken to check cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Noninvasive tests may be performed—including chest X-rays, electrocardiograms (EKG), echocardiograms (ECHO), stress tests, and wearing a Holter monitor. Invasive testing may include cardiac catheterization to allow an inside view of possible blockage of heart vessels to help determine the best course of treatment.        

If I have heart disease, how is it treated?

Treatment depends on the severity of the condition.  Call 911 if you experience any of the symptoms listed above.

Breast Cancer

What is breast cancer? 

Breast cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the breast when cells begin to grow out of control.  This cancer can start in different parts of the breast and not all types of breast cancer cause a lump in the breast.  Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women other than skin cancer.  Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older, but it also affects younger women. In 2017, more than 250,000 women in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer and 42,000 women died from the disease. Men also get breast cancer. About 1 out of every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the United States is found in a man.1
 
1 https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/index.htm

What puts me at risk for breast cancer?

  • Age
  • Reproductive history
  • Having dense breasts
  • Personal or family history of breast cancer
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Overweight
  • Hormone replacement
  • Drinking alcohol

How do I know if I have breast cancer?

There are different symptoms of breast cancer, and some people have no symptoms at all. Schedule a doctor’s appointment for any of the following symptoms: 

  • Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
  • Pain in any area of the breast.
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk (including blood).
  • A new lump in the breast or underarm.

How does my doctor test for breast cancer?

A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast. Doctors use a mammogram to look for early signs of breast cancer. Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors can do to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt. Screening for breast cancer using digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT), also known as three-dimensional mammography, may be covered annually instead of conventional two-dimensional screening mammography for all women beginning at age 40. Under certain circumstances—if you have dense breast tissue, a prior diagnosis of breast cancer, or breast cancer in a first-degree relative (mother, sister or daughter)—it may be covered beginning at age 30. Please contact Member Services for details.

If I have breast cancer, how is it treated?

Breast cancer has a high chance of being cured if diagnosed early. Treatment depends on the type of breast cancer and how far it has spread. Treatment can include surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy and/or radiation therapy.

Cervical Cancer 

What is cervical cancer? 

Cervical cancer is cancer that starts in the cells that line the cervix (lower part of the uterus). Cancer starts when the cells begin to grow out of control. The American Cancer Society’s estimates for cervical cancer in the United States for 2021 are:
  • About 14,480 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed.
  • About 4,290 women will die from cervical cancer.
For additional information and statistics visit: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/about/key-statistics.html

How can I lower my risk for cervical cancer?
 
Lower the risk for cervical cancer by getting regular and consistent screenings, starting at age 21. Pre-cancerous cells can be detected and treated to prevent cancer from developing.
How do I know if I have cervical cancer?

Symptoms can vary from pelvic pain during sexual intercourse, irregular or heavy menstruation, fatigue, nausea, or weight loss.

How does my doctor test for cervical cancer?
 
Two screening tests help prevent cervical cancer or detect it early:
  • The Pap (Papanicolaou) test or smear looks for precancers, which are cell changes in the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
  • The human papillomavirus (HPV) test looks for the HPV virus cells that are most likely to cause cervical cancer.  
Both tests can be done at the same time in a doctor’s office or clinic.  The provider collects cells from the cervix by to be looked at closely in the lab to find cancer and precancer. 
 
Individuals with a cervix should get their first Pap test/smear at age 21. If test results are normal, the next test should be completed every 3 years.
 
Individuals 30 years old or older with a cervix, have three options:
  • Continue getting a Pap test only. If test result is normal, wait three years for the next test.
  • Get an HPV test only. If test result is normal, wait five years for the next test.
  • Get both an HPV and Pap test together. If test results are normal, wait five years for the next tests.

If I have cervical cancer, how is it treated?

Treatments include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Colorectal Cancer

What is colorectal cancer? 

Colorectal cancer, cancer of the colon or rectum, is the third most common cancer in men and women. Sometimes abnormal growths, called polyps, form in the colon or rectum. Over time, some polyps may turn into cancer. Screening tests can find polyps so they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage when treatment works best. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/

What puts me at risk for colorectal cancer? 

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Family history
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Low fiber and high fat diet
  • Being overweight
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco use
     
What are some signs of possible colorectal cancer?
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Blood in your stool
  • Diarrhea, constipation
  • Abdominal pain that will not go away
  • Unexplained weight loss

How does my doctor test for colorectal cancer?

There are several colorectal cancer screenings that can help find precancerous changes and detect cancer in its early stages when it is most treatable. The table below shows the different types of screening tests that can be done. Talk with your doctor about which screening is right for you.

Screening choices How often screening is recommended
Where screening is done
Fecal Occult Blood Test (gFOBT, iFOBT) OR
Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT)
Every calendar year (between the ages of 50-75 years of age) At home
DNA-based Test (Cologuard®) Every 3 years At home
Flexible Sigmoidoscopy OR
Screening Barium Enema
Every 4 years At a facility
Coloscopy Screening Every 10 years At a facility

To receive an iFOBT test kit at home (if you are between the ages of 50-75 years old) contact Martin’s Point Member Services. This age recommendation is set by the US Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF).  In adults younger than 50 and from 76-85 years old, the USPSTF recommends the decision to screen for colorectal cancer should be an individual one, made by the patient and their primary care provider. This decision should take into account the person’s overall health and prior screening history to determine which test is the best.

If I have colorectal cancer, how is it treated? 

Treatment depends on the type of colorectal cancer and how far it has spread.  Once diagnosed, additional testing will help determine the extent or stage of cancer to indicate the most appropriate treatment.

Chlamydia

What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is the most reported sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States. It is caused by bacteria called chlamydia trachomatis, which can be passed from person to person during vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Infections can occur in the mouth, reproductive organs, urethra, and/or rectum. In women, the most common place for infection is the cervix (the opening of the uterus). 

If left untreated, chlamydia can cause complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which can lead to long-term health problems and affect the ability to get pregnant. Chlamydia can lie dormant in the body for many years causing a low-grade infection without symptoms. It could potentially flare up and cause a symptomatic infection if you have another illness.  

What puts me at risk for chlamydia?

The following factors increase the risk of contracting chlamydia:

  • Having a new or multiple sexual partner(s). While the risk is higher with a new/multiple sexual partner(s), due to the ability for the bacteria to lie dormant for many years, you could still be carrying the bacteria without having new/multiple partner(s).
  • Having a sexual partner who has more than one sexual partner
  • Having sex with someone who has a sexually transmitted infection
  • Having an STI now or in the past
  • Not using condoms consistently when not in a mutually monogamous relationship
  • Exchanging sex for money or drugs

How do I know if I have chlamydia?

Chlamydia usually does not cause symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may appear from a few days to several weeks after infection. They may be very mild and can be mistaken for a urinary tract or vaginal infection. The most common symptoms in women include:

  • Yellow discharge from the vagina or urethra
  • Painful or frequent urination
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods
  • Rectal bleeding, discharge, or pain

How does my doctor test for chlamydia?

A chlamydia test can be done on a urine sample (noninvasive) or on samples taken with a swab from the vagina, mouth, throat, rectum, or the area around the cervix A yearly screening test is recommended for women 16 to 25 years old and for women 25 years or older who have one or more risk factors listed above. This routine preventive screening is painless and is a covered benefit.

If I have chlamydia, how is it treated?

Treatment for chlamydia can include azithromycin single dose or doxycycline twice a day for 7-14 days. Any past or current sexual partners will also need to be tested and treated. This includes anyone with whom sexual contact has occurred within the past 60 days or last sexual partner. Take all medicine as directed.

Chlamydia can be passed to sexual partners even during treatment. You should avoid sexual contact until you have finished treatment, and all sexual partners should as well.  A three-month follow up test should be completed to ensure the infection has cleared up

Maternity

Expecting? Join our US Family Health Plan Maternity Program!

Connect with a Maternity Nurse Care Manager! 

Contact us as soon as you know you are pregnant so we can support you!

Members can connect with a Martin’s Point nurse care manager to receive personal support during pregnancy and after delivery. The Maternity Support Program is available to members who are pregnant or new mothers from the first day of pregnancy up to six to eight weeks after delivery. If you have questions or concerns about seeing your provider or what care you need, please contact our care management nurses.

Participation is free. Please call us at 1-877-659-2403 to ask about a free incentive and to answer a few questions so we can get to know you.

Prenatal: Care throughout your pregnancy

Checkups and tests after you know you are pregnant
As soon as you know you're pregnant, make an appointment with your doctor or certified midwife. Your first prenatal visit will provide information that can be used to check for any problems as your pregnancy progresses. It's also a good time to think about how you want to partner with your doctor or midwife.

  • Your first prenatal visit includes a health history, physical exam, and blood and urine tests.
  • First-trimester exams and tests may include fetal ultrasound, which uses reflected sound waves to provide an image of your fetus and placenta.
  • Second-trimester exams and tests may include fetal ultrasound and electronic fetal heart monitoring. Later in the second trimester, you will have an oral glucose screening test for possible gestational diabetes. If you have Rh-negative blood, you may have an antibody screening test and will receive an injection of Rh immunoglobulin. Screening tests help your doctor look for a certain disease or condition before any symptoms appear.
  • Third-trimester exams and tests may include fetal ultrasound, hepatitis B screening, and group B strep screening.

Additional prenatal care information along with an interactive online tool to reference any time during your pregnancy can be found here: https://www.healthwise.net/martinspoint/Content/StdDocument.aspx?DOCHWID=center1030

Postpartum: First 6 Weeks After Childbirth

What is postpartum?

During the first weeks after giving birth, your body begins to heal and adjust to not being pregnant. This is called postpartum (or the postpartum period). Your body goes through many changes as you recover. These changes are different for every woman.
The first weeks after childbirth also are a time to bond with and set up a routine for caring for your baby. Your doctor will want to see you for a checkup 2-6 weeks after delivery. This is a good time to discuss any concerns, including birth control.

How can you care for yourself?

It is easy to get too tired and overwhelmed during the first weeks after childbirth. Take it easy on yourself. Your doctor will tell you how to care for your body as you recover.

  • Try to sleep when your baby does.
  • Ask another adult to be with you for a few days after delivery.
  • Let family and friends bring you meals or do chores.
  • Plan for childcare if you have other children.
  • Plan small trips to get out of the house. Change can make you feel less tired.
  • Drink extra fluids if you are breastfeeding.

How does postpartum affect your emotions?
The first few weeks after your baby is born can be a time of excitement—and of being very tired. You may look at your wondrous little baby and feel happy. But at the same time, you may feel exhausted from a lack of sleep and your new responsibilities.

Many women get the "baby blues" during the first few days after childbirth. The "baby blues" usually peak around the fourth day and then ease up in less than 2 weeks. If you have the blues for more than a few days, or if you have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, call your doctor right away. You may have postpartum depression. This needs to be treated. Support groups and counseling can help. Sometimes medicine also can help.

Additional postpartum and newborn care information can be found here:
https://www.healthwise.net/martinspoint/find/search.aspx?searchTerm=Postpartum+Care