women's health Archives - Mantachie Rural Health Care, Inc.
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When Should I Get My First Mammogram?

When Should I Get My First Mammogram?

When Should I Get My First Mammogram?

Breast cancer ranks as the second most common cancer among women. Each October we wear pink to remind women of the importance of getting a mammogram. The question is, what age should women have their first mammogram? Here’s what we know. 

Ten of every 100,000 women between the ages of 20-24 receive a breast cancer diagnosis. That number increases as women age into their late 20’s and early 30’s. We notice significant jumps around the ages of 40-50. Women in their 70’s have the highest rate of breast cancer diagnoses. So if most women are not affected by breast cancer until their 70’s, why do experts recommend screenings for women who are much younger?

Multiple trials demonstrate that screening mammograms decreased the risk of death from breast cancer by 15% to 29%. Lowering your risk of death offers reason enough to have a mammogram at the earliest recommended age.

What is the earliest recommended age for your first mammogram?

All medical experts agree that early screening saves lives. The exact age of that first screening remains a widely debated topic. The American Cancer Society recommends women receive their first mammogram by age 45. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Forces say women can wait until age 50 for their first screening. However, the Mayo Clinic “supports screening beginning at age 40 because screening mammograms can detect breast abnormalities early in women in their 40’s.” 

Though some experts agree that younger is better no mammogram comes without its own risks. Women in their 40’s and 50’s are more likely to receive a false positive which is why further testing with another mammogram, ultrasound imaging, or biopsies is necessary if an abnormality is detected.

Because of the varying recommendations from medical associations and the simple fact that every woman is different, we believe the best thing you can do is talk with your doctor about the best age for you to start screening. Factors that are significant only to you such as your family history of the disease (women with a close family history are advised to get screened sooner than women with no family history) are key to determining when you should get your first mammogram. If you are over the age of 30 with a close family history of breast cancer, we recommend talking with your provider now about when you should start screening. Women with average risks should talk to their providers about a mammogram at least by age 40. 

The best time to talk to your provider about getting a mammogram is during your annual wellness visit. Click here to request your visit.

The Surprising Signs of PCOS

suprising signs of PCOS

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine and metabolic disorder affecting 1 in 10 women of child-bearing age. PCOS is a common condition among women and girls who have reached puberty, however, at least 7 in 10 women with the disorder are undiagnosed. 

Because of its name, many assume ovarian cysts and irregular or missed periods characterize PCOS. These are indeed indicators of PCOS but other more unusual signs of the disorder may also be present. 

Before you continue reading about these symptoms, it’s important to know that no two PCOS cases are exactly the same. You may or may not share any of these symptoms with another PCOS patient. For instance, infertility is a symptom of PCOS, however many women are able to naturally conceive with no problems while others are able to conceive with fertility treatments. Some PCOS symptoms are a bit more common and while others aren’t as well known.

Unusual PCOS Signs

  • Weight gain or obesity that is difficult to manage.
  • Unwanted hair growth, known as hirsutism, on areas where men normally grow hair such as the face, arms, back, chest, thumbs, toes, and abdomen. Hirsutism is the result of hormonal changes in androgens.
  • Hair thinning or loss
  • Acne
  • Mood changes such as mood swings, depression, and anxiety.
  • Pelvic pain and heavy bleeding may occur during menstruation. Pain in the pelvic area can also occur when women are not bleeding. 
  • Headaches
  • Sleep problems. PCOS is one of several conditions linked to sleep apnea disorder.

PCOS is currently incurable but treatable, although many women never find complete relief from symptoms. Hormonal birth control is the most common treatment of PCOS. Other, non-FDA approved treatments include anti-androgen drugs and Metformin. Anti-androgen drugs block the effect of androgens which reduces body and facial hair growth, acne, and scalp hair loss. Metformin, a medicine commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes, may help restore ovulation and aid in lowering body mass and improving cholesterol levels in women with PCOS. However, these medicines also carry certain risks and still need more studies before they are approved by the FDA. 

If any of the mentioned symptoms sound a little too familiar, you may have PCOS. We can discuss your symptoms and give a diagnosis with a women’s health exam, one of the many services offered at Mantachie Rural Health Care. If you receive a positive PCOS diagnosis, we’ll talk about the best treatment options and walk with you each step of the way to getting control of your symptoms. Click here to request a women’s health appointment now. 

Your Right to Request a Referral to a Specialist

Our doctor and nurse practitioners are family care providers. That means they have experience and are highly educated in a wide range of medical conditions. Most of our patients find that experience and knowledge to be exactly what they need in a time of illness. For some patients with chronic illness or advanced illness, we need to refer them to a specialist. But your health isn’t just in our hands. You can (and should) take an active role in your health. If you think it’s time to see a specialist, ask us for a referral.

When to Ask for a Referral

Some illnesses are easy to diagnose on the first visit. A very sore throat with a fever can be diagnosed and treated as strep throat with a quick test. Other illnesses aren’t that clear. Many diseases and chronic illnesses have similar symptoms. Our providers listen to your symptoms, ask questions, and order tests in an effort to single out the cause of your illness. That means some problems may take more than one visit to get a diagnosis. 

If you’ve visited with your provider more than three times for the same issue and still don’t feel like you’re getting any closer to finding answers, it’s time to talk to your doctor about a specialist referral. Your primary care provider is a partner in your health. We want to see you feel better. Sometimes a doctor with specialised care in a specific area can provide new insight.

What to do Before Requesting a Referral

Before you ask your doctor for a referral, check with your insurance. Most insurance companies have a list of specialists they prefer. You’ll also want to know if seeing that specialist requires a referral. You can check out the potential providers and have an idea of who you’d like to request before your visit.

How to Request a Referral

It can feel awkward asking your doctor to refer you to someone else. Don’t let that stand in the way of better health for you. Your provider wants the best for your health. As a primary care provider they will continue to be involved in your health decisions even if you seek care from a specialist. 

During your visit with your provider, ask if they think it’s time for you to see a specialist or let your doctor know you’re ready to see a specialist. Ask for your doctor’s recommendation of who to see and why that’s their preferred referral. They may have insight into your health history and the specialist’s knowledge that an internet search or your Aunt Clara’s recommendation doesn’t have. If you do not want to see the specialist your doctor recommends, let them know who is covered by your insurance and who you would like to see.

Sometimes a physician to physician referral can result in a faster appointment time. This is not always the case, but it can be a benefit of having your doctor put in the call. Also, if your provider makes the referral, they will know the protocol to ensure your medical records are shared with the specialist. 

Before Your Specialist Appointment

Double-check with your primary care provider’s office to ensure they sent your medical records to the specialist’s office. Also, make sure the new doctor is still covered by your insurance. Make sure you have a list of medications to take with you to the new appointment and check online to fill out any forms ahead of time.

After Your Specialist Appointment

Your primary care provider is still available for all your health needs, even if you’re seeing a specialist for a specific issue. Your doctor should have records of your visits with the specialist so they can make notes in your chart. If you’re seeing a gastroenterologist for a stomach problem, your primary care physician will still be your go-to for acute care illnesses like sinus infections or other chronic diseases like high blood pressure.

Remember, we’re a partner in your health journey, but your true responsibility for your health remains with you. Being open and honest with your provider not only about your health, but about your desire to see a specialist may save time and help you find a diagnosis faster.

Perimenopause, menopause and women’s health

shingles vaccine; women of menopause age

“The Change” has long been the unofficial title of the stage in a woman’s life when her menstrual cycle ends and her hormones, well, change. Menopause, the official title of this season of life, is actually the end of the change, marked by 12-months of no menstrual cycle. The full cycle of change in a woman’s body may take as long as ten years or as little as a few months. Caring for your health during these changes is as important as caring for your health during your child-bearing years.


Before a woman’s menstrual cycles end her hormone levels begin to decrease. She continues to have her period during this time although it may be irregular. Fertility may decrease for some women but they can still become pregnant.

For most women, perimenopause happens in their 40s, but it can begin earlier. The average length of this season of life is four months but, because every woman is different, some women may experience perimenopause for up to ten years while others rush through it in a matter of months.

During the last two years of perimenopause, a woman’s hormones drop more quickly moving her toward the end of her cycle and menopause. Women will experience the symptoms associated with menopause during this time.

During perimenopause most people will experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Hot flashes
  • Breast tenderness
  • Worse premenstrual syndrome
  • Lower sex drive
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular periods
  • Vaginal dryness; discomfort during sex
  • Urine leakage when coughing or sneezing
  • Urinary urgency (an urgent need to urinate more frequently)
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble sleeping


When a woman has not had a menstrual cycle in twelve consecutive months she’s considered to be in menopause. Her ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and her production of estrogen has decreased significantly. Most women experience menopause (and all the symptoms that go with it) in their mid-late forties or fifties.

Premature menopause describes menopause that occurs before the age of 40 even if the cause is surgery induced through a hysterectomy or by damage to the ovaries. Women who have surgically induced menopause will not go through perimenopause.

While hot flashes are the hallmark symptoms of menopause, women often experience an array of symptoms linked to the decrease in hormones including:

  • Irregular or skipped periods
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Racing heart
  • Headaches
  • Joint and muscle aches and pains
  • Changes in libido (sex drive)
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Bladder control problems


When the hot flashes have eased and you’ve grown more accustomed to your body’s new hormone levels, you’ve entered postmenopause. Due both to the changes in hormones and age, women in postmenopause are at a higher risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, vision problems, bladder and bowl problems, and Alzheimer’s disease.


Menopause is a natural part of life and certain symptoms are common during these stages. However, women can take steps to care for their bodies and reduce the symptoms. Exercise, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight all contribute to your body’s overall wellbeing, especially during this stage.

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of menopause or perimenopause schedule an appointment with your provider. Some normal symptoms of menopause may actually be symptoms of other illnesses that need to be treated. And if you’ve entered “The Change” your provider may be able to suggest treatment options to reduce your symptoms and lower your risk of chronic disease.

What’s the Deal with Self-Care?

taking a walk for self-care

Self-Care: the buzzword appears on magazine articles, blogs, and social media on a recurring basis these days. A search for “self-care” on Google returns over 5 BILLION results. Online searches and mentions of self-care peaked at an all-time high in September 2018. But what does it mean and why are people suddenly talking about it?

Why Self-Care?

One theory around the popularity of self-care is that the world we live in pressures us to do everything well because we’re comparing our lives to the lives of our friends and celebrities online. A Pinterest-worthy birthday party? No sweat. A picture of myself at the gym this morning? Got it. A copy of the gourmet recipe we cooked for dinner after three sports practices and a private tuba lesson? Here you go.

Add national, state and local news headlines to the stress of performing our daily lives in front of everyone on social media and we’re an anxiety infused people.

We’re also seeing the stigma around mental health disorders reduced, which means more people are talking about ways to care about their physical and emotional needs.

What is Self-Care

The commercialized self-care industry paints a picture of self-care as a weekend getaway, a bubble bath, an hour of yoga or even time spent binging Netflix. True self-care is anything that recharges us so we can be better members of our community, which also includes our family and our workplace.

We’ll spare you a list of self-care to-dos, which often provide more instead of less stress. Instead, we encourage you to think about what recharges you or fill-in this blank: I have more energy when I ___________.

We’d love to hear how you take time to re-charge. Tell us the comments below!

Skipping Your Cervical Cancer Screening? Don’t.

two women friends, cervical cancer screening pap tests

New recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force give women the options in their cervical cancer screenings:

The average woman aged 30-65 can be screened by:

  • A Pap test every three years
  • A HPV every five years
  • Or Both tests (collected together) every five years

Previously doctor’s recommended a Pap test every year in these age groups. With the reduced amount of testing, you’d expect more, not fewer, women to be screening. Unfortunately, less than 65% of women are up to date on their screenings.

Why Schedule Your Cervical Cancer Screening?

Short answer? Cervical cancer exhibits no symptoms in its early stages when treatment is most effective. The best way to detect cervical cancer early is through microscopic testing of your cervix lining. In addition to testing for cervical cancer during your visit, your provider will test for STIs, an important yearly testing for women who are sexually active with more than one partner or who practice unsafe sex.

Why Aren’t Women Being Screened?

Researchers have multiple theories. One is that without the need for a yearly Pap test women believe they do not need to see their gynecologist but every three to five years. It’s easier to forget to schedule a cervical cancer screening three years from now than it is to keep a yearly appointment. Also confusion over the guidelines and which test they need may keep some women from being tested at all.

Testing dips after age 26 when many women roll off their parents’ health insurance so they may not be able to pay for the testing. And finally, rumors of how uncomfortable a Pap test is can discourage some women from scheduling theirs.

Don’t Be Chicken, Schedule Your Appointment

We’re making it easier to stay healthy. For $15 you can receive your Pap test in our office.

Not sure when you had your last cervical cancer screening? No problem. Let’s start now. We’ll add your screening dates to your patient record in our office or start a new one if you’ve never been here before. When you forget the last time you had a screening, call us, we’ll be glad to check.

Worried about how uncomfortable screening may be? A Pap or HPV test is one of the least invasive tests you’ll schedule. Having a strep or flu test is much more uncomfortable in our opinion. Plus, our providers and nursing staff have excellent bedside manners. Your screening will be over before you know it.

No insurance or high deductible? No problem. Like we said, $15 covers your screening. If you only need one every three years that’s like 41 cents a month. Your health is worth it.

Ready to schedule your Pap test? Call us now at 662-282-4226.

Is Thyroid Disease Preventing Weight Loss?

thyroid disease weight gain

Women thyroid gland control. 

In every poll we’ve read, eating better, exercising and losing weight topped last year’s list of New Year’s Resolutions. For most Americans, New Years Resolutions stick around for less time than it takes to sweep up the confetti from the New Year’s Eve party. But what if you met your goals to eat healthier and exercise more and yet your weight remained the same, or worse, increased? Thyroid disease may be preventing weight loss.

What’s Your Thyroid?

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland at the front of your neck. This gland produces hormones which control how your body uses energy or your metabolism. If your thyroid gland produces too few hormones (hypothyroidism) your metabolism slows down and your body burns fewer calories. On the flip side, an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) speeds up your metabolism and may cause weight loss.

How Do I Know If My Problem Is My Thyroid?

Hypothyroidism can prevent weight loss. In addition to an inability to lose weight, patients with hypothyroidism may experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Altered sense of smell and taste
  • Brain fog or forgetfulness
  • Dry skin
  • Brittle nails
  • Constipation
  • Change in menstrual cycle
  • Slower heart rate
  • Feeling cold or having chills
  • Hair loss
  • Numbness or tingling in hands

How Do I Approach My Provider?

An inability to lose weight or unexplained weight gain doesn’t usually trigger a provider to test for thyroid problems right off the bat. If you’re experiencing any of these other symptoms, however, your provider should request a simple blood test to check your thyroid function. Make a note of which of these symptoms you’ve experienced and how often in the past month you’ve experienced them. Use this information to talk to your doctor. If you do not have any other symptoms but you are not losing weight even after increased exercise and dieting, it’s still time to discuss the problem with your provider. While your thyroid may not be the culprit, you may have another health problem that is.

What now?

If thyroid disease is preventing weight loss, your doctor may prescribe medications that will make you feel better and may make losing the weight easier. Some research shows patients with hypothyroidism have to exercise more in order to burn the calories needed to lose weight. In addition to taking medication, your provider may suggest working with a nutritionist or health coach to help you determine the right combination of food and exercise to help you lose weight.

Before starting any new diet or exercise routine, schedule a physical with your provider. If you want to lose weight in 2019, let our providers help you reach those goals and improve your health.

Ovarian Cancer: The Hidden Cancer

ovarian cancer

Masked by the busyness of everyday life symptoms of ovarian cancer lurk unnoticed. Although this cancer normally strikes women over 50 the disease has surprised women of all ages. Like most cancers, ovarian cancer is most easily treated in its earliest stages, however, only 20% of cases are detected in stage 1.

Unlike uterine and breast cancer, ovarian cancer lacks tests for early detection. Combined with few obvious symptoms, even women who keep their yearly wellness exams find themselves ambushed by a mid or late-stage cancer diagnosis.

Although this cancer produces few symptoms, the most common indicators include:

  • Abdominal bloating, pressure, and pain
  • Abnormal fullness after eating
  • Difficulty eating
  • Increase in urination
  • Increased urge to urinate
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Discomfort in the pelvic area

Because these ailments may also indicate less benign illnesses, it’s important to see your provider especially if you notice a combination of these symptoms that do not go away or recur often.

To diagnose ovarian cancer, your provider may perform a pelvic exam, order imaging test such as ultrasounds or CT scans and test your blood for tumor markers. Some ovarian cancers prove harder to diagnose than others and may require surgery in order to remove your ovary and test it for cancer.

Cancer survivors encourage other women to become their own best advocate. Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you are unsatisfied that your provider listened to your concerns and treated them seriously, make an appointment with another provider for a second opinion.

Ovarian cancer may strike any woman but your risks may increase if you fit into any of these scenarios:

  • Between the ages of 50-60 years, although ovarian cancer can occur at any age.
  • Inherited gene mutations. Breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2), also known to increase the risk of breast cancer, increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Family history. If one or two close relatives have experienced ovarian cancer you are at higher risk.
  • Long term use of estrogen hormone replacement therapy.
  • Age when menstruation started and ended. If your cycles started early or you experienced a later menopause, you may be at higher risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Obesity
  • Personal history of breast, uterine or colon cancer
  • No history of pregnancy
  • Endometriosis

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, do not wait to contact your medical provider. If you do not have a medical provider, schedule an appointment with one of our providers. Your health is worth pursuing.

3 Types of Female Hair Loss

female hair loss

Women expect to lose a certain amount of hair every day. In fact, doctors consider losing up to 100 strands of your beautiful mane each day perfectly normal. Noticing excessive shedding, however, rises up panic, fear and even shame in the one in four women who experience clinical female hair loss.

Television commercials, magazine ads, and even social media videos champion solutions for male pattern baldness. Rarely do we hear discussions of female hair loss, which makes those who suffer from the issue feel more isolated.

Telogen Effluvium

Don’t worry, we won’t make you pronounce it. Just remember it applies to temporary hair loss triggered by a disturbance in your hair cycle. This disturbance was likely a traumatic or stressful event, that happened three to four month prior to the hair loss. Stressful events include pregnancy and childbirth, menopause, certain medications, and surgery or poor diets.

Temporary hair loss normally involves sudden, overall shedding of your hair. In good news, most women find a return to their normal, healthy mane in six to nine months once the cause of hair loss is addressed.

Androgenetic Alopecia

Also known as female pattern baldness, this hair loss presents as a thinning of hair near the crown. Women typically notice a wider part and less volume in their hair sometime after menopause.  The thinning may begin as early as puberty. In most cases, women with Androgenetic Alopecia will not achieve a full re-growth of their luscious locks, but they may be able to prevent or slow the rate of hair loss. Hormones and heredity both play a role in who develops female pattern baldness.

Alopecia Areata

Unlike the previous types of hair loss, alopecia areata emerges as patchy bald sections most often on the head but it may also appear in other areas of the body. Baldness occurs when the body’s immune system attacks hair follicles. Alopecia areata affects slightly more men than women. Around 70% of women will experience regrowth of their hair within two years even without treatment.

Hair loss rarely causes physical pain, but for women and some men, hair loss can trigger emotional responses including depression, decreased self-confidence and increased self-consciousness. If you’ve noticed increased hair loss leading to baldness, contact your medical provider to determine the cause of hair loss and treatment options. Also contact our behavioral health clinic for assistance managing the emotional response to female hair loss.

9 Common Triggers for Migraines

migraine headache

Few moments rank worse than feeling a severe headache or migraine coming on. From dark, quiet rooms to hours or even days of throbbing pain, anyone who has experienced this illness knows just how debilitating it can be. Migraines affect more than 36 million men, women and children in the United States. While they may seem to come out of nowhere, many share common triggers.


Unsurprisingly, stress is the main culprit for almost 70 percent of people who experience migraines. With a significant association between daily stressors and migraine activity, it can seem like migraines are never-ending, especially when the worry of the next attack is lurking at the back of your mind. But there are ways to combat stress-related migraines:

  • Make a list of things that cause stress
  • Try relaxation therapy or meditation
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy sleep schedule

Changes in sleep

Speaking of sleep, an irregular sleep schedule or even changes in your regular sleep schedule can cause a migraine attack. Plus, this trigger makes sense when we dig into it. During sleep, our bodies renew and repair themselves. When we deprive ourselves of regular sleep, we become more prone to migraine attacks. To avoid sleep-related migraines, try going to sleep at the same time every night and aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep. You can also eliminate TV, phones, reading and music before bed to get a more restful sleep, as the light from these devices can result in disrupted sleep.


Because of hormones, women are three times more likely to have migraines than men. About 75 percent of women find their migraine attacks happen around the time of their menstrual cycle. The change in estrogen and progesterone levels cause “menstrual migraines.” Certain methods of birth control can stabilize hormone levels, relieving you of any hormone-related migraines.

Caffeine and Alcohol

While a cup of coffee in the morning might seem like a good way to rev up for your day, it could actually be the culprit for your migraine attacks. The same could be said for the nightly glass of wine. On the other hand, some people claim that their migraines are eased by a cup of coffee. The best way to determine if caffeine or alcohol is the cause of your migraine attacks is to track your consumption and your migraines. Then you can adjust your caffeine or wine intake accordingly.


Several types of food can be the trigger for a migraine attack. Usually, these foods contain histamine and MSG, chocolate, artificial sweeteners, caffeine or anything with a strong smell. Even cheeses and cured meats can become triggers for migraine attacks. The best way to determine which foods are triggers for you is to track your eating habits and your migraine symptoms. This way you can determine which foods cause negative reactions and eliminate them from your diet.

Physical Exertion

While exercise can help reduce your stress levels and your risk of triggering a migraine, intense physical exertion has been shown to provoke migraines. These could include overexerting yourself at the gym or even intense sexual activity. Try tracking your migraine symptoms to see if they are related to any physical activity, then adjust your lifestyle accordingly.


Like alcohol and foods, dehydration is an easily trackable trigger for migraines. In fact, about one third of people say even the slightest dehydration can cause their migraine symptoms to start. Start by tracking your water intake. You can also carry a water bottle around to ensure you are getting enough fluids.

Changes in weather

We all know how our bodies react to changing weather. In springtime, we suffer from pollen and changes in barometric pressure. During summer, humidity and heat can send us rushing back indoors. Unsurprisingly, these factors are common weather-related triggers. Controlling the weather isn’t an option, but adjusting your schedule during the worst of these seasons can help prevent a migraine attack.

Light and Smell

Our senses can cause migraines too, especially when it comes to strong lights and smells. Bright natural light or even fluorescent or flickering lights can trigger your symptoms. The same can be said for strong odors, as they can activate certain nerve receptors in the nasal passages. Try wearing sunglasses on brighter days and using green light in your home, as it has been shown to not trigger migraines. Also, try avoiding perfumes, chemicals, gasoline or even strong food smells.

While everyone’s experiences with migraines is different, knowing the triggers can help you better manage your symptoms. To learn more about migraines and treatment plans, schedule an appointment with your provider today.



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