Ask CDC - Healthy Living

Where can I find cancer support groups, organizations, or services?

The best place to start searching for cancer services in your area is your state or local health departmentExternal. Support groups are also often listed in local newspapers.

Other useful resources for cancer support and services include:

  • The American Cancer Society (ACS)External, a research organization that also offers information about treatment options, understanding your diagnosis, coping strategies, support programs, advice for family, and more.
  • The Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF)External helps cancer survivors who are having money problems due to cancer treatment.
  • The National Cancer Institute (NCI)External, through the Cancer Information Service, provides the latest and most accurate cancer information and resources to patients, families, the public, and health professionals about topics such as coping with cancer, clinical trials, services and support available, and more.
  • CancerCareExternal provides free, professional support services to people who have been touched by cancer, including people with cancer as well as those who care for them or who have lost someone to cancer.

CDC is working with national, state, and local partners to create programs that help the millions of people in the U.S. who live with or survived cancer.

CDC Resources

Cancer Prevention and Control: Cancer Survivorship

Cancer Survivorship: Survivorship Resources

External Resources

American Cancer Society
1-800-ACS-2345 (1-800-227-2345)
http://www.cancer.org/External

Patient Advocate Foundation
1-800-532-5274
http://www.patientadvocate.org/External

Coping with Cancer
U.S. National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute
1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237)
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/support/External

CancerEducation.com
http://www.cancereducation.comExternal

Where can I find information on safe motherhood (prenatal care, healthy pregnancy, and healthy delivery)?
Image of a smiling woman holding her smiling baby on her shoulder

You can find information about safe motherhood on CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health Website. For additional resources on women’s health and infant health before, during, and after pregnancy, visit the Maternal and Infant Health webpage. Safe motherhood begins before conception (before you become pregnant) with proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, and then continues with appropriate prenatal care.

Healthcare providers and women can work together to prevent and control conditions before and during pregnancy to improve chances for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

If you are pregnant, or are thinking about becoming pregnant, be sure to see a doctor or healthcare provider to start prenatal or preconception care right away. If you don’t have a doctor, contact your state or local health departmentExternal. Learn more about what to do before pregnancy, during pregnancy, and after the baby arrives.

CDC Resources

Reproductive Health

Maternal and Infant Health: Home

External Resources

Office on Women’s Health Helpline
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health
Call 1-800-994-9662
Hours: Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. ET (closed on federal holidays)

Where can I go for a free or low-cost mammogram or Pap test?

CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) offers free or low-cost mammograms and Pap tests to women who qualify.

The program is for women who don’t have health insurance or have insurance that doesn’t cover the tests. The rules about who can participate vary by state. You will need to contact a local program to see if you qualify.

CDC Resources

Contact a Local Program

Breast Cancer

Cervical Cancer

External Resources

National Cancer InstituteExternal

American Cancer SocietyExternal
1-800-227-2345

Why is it important to be physically active?
Image of a person sitting in a yoga pose

Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your body. It has a number of health benefits:

  • Helps control your weight
  • Reduces risk of cardiovascular (heart and blood flow) disease
  • Lowers blood pressure and improves cholesterol
  • Reduces risk of type 2 diabetes (high blood sugar)
  • Reduces risk of metabolic syndromeExternal
  • Reduces risk of colon and breast cancer, and possibly other types of cancer
  • Strengthens bones and muscles
  • Improves mental health and mood
  • Improves your ability to do daily activities
  • Prevents falls
  • Increases your chances of living longer

Before starting any fitness program, you may want to speak with your doctor. This is especially important if you have a chronic, long-term disease such as:

  • A heart condition,
  • Arthritis (joint pain),
  • Diabetes (high blood sugar), or
  • High blood pressure.

Your doctor can help you figure out what types and amounts of exercise are right for you.

To learn more about the benefits of physical activity, please visit CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity page.

Where can I find a free or low-cost health clinic in my county or neighborhood?

Federally funded health centers serve people with limited access to healthcare. They provide primary healthcare to people of all ages, whether or not they have health insurance or money to pay for healthcare. Patients pay what they can afford, based on income.

Health centers can be found in most cities and in many rural areas. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)External can help you locate a center in your county.

External Resources

Find a Health CenterExternal
1-888-ASK-HRSA (275-4772)

Can you diagnose my illness or give me advice on my medical condition?
Image of a young girl getting her throat examined by a healthcare professional

CDC-INFO is not able to diagnose your illness or give medical advice on your condition. CDC does not have public hospitals or doctors’ offices and does not:

  • See patients,
  • Diagnose illnesses,
  • Give specific opinions or advice about symptoms,
  • Provide medical or veterinary treatment, or
  • Prescribe medicine.

If you think you need medical care, please see your doctor or healthcare provider right away. If you do not have a doctor, visit the MMWR Public Health Resources: State or Territorial Health Departments WebsiteExternal  to find a health department or other healthcare provider in your area.

External Resources

NACCHO Directory of Local Health DepartmentsExternal

What is CDC’s role in addressing secondhand smoke?

CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health (OSH) leads and coordinates strategic efforts to protect the public’s health from the harmful effects of tobacco use, including efforts to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke. To accomplish our goals, we work with local, state, national, and international leaders to:

  • Expand the science base of effective tobacco control, including elimination of secondhand smoke exposure
  • Build sustainable capacity and infrastructure for comprehensive tobacco control programs
  • Communicate timely, relevant information to constituents, policy makers, and the public
  • Coordinate policy, partnerships, and other strategic initiatives to support tobacco control priorities
  • Foster global tobacco control through surveillance, capacity building, and information exchange

Through CDC’s Smoking and Tobacco Use Website, you can receive more information on related topics, such as:

I have questions or comments about the Tips From Former Smokers® campaign
Image of an ashtray, containing four used cigarette butts and ashes

The Tips From Former Smokers® campaign features real people who are living with serious long-term health effects from smoking and secondhand smoke exposure. The campaign has aired over the past 6 years and has been shown to impact smoking behaviors. In 2012 alone, Tips® caused an estimated 1.64 million American smokers to make a quit attempt and about 100,000 of these smokers to quit smoking for good.

The Tips® ads encourage smokers to call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or to visit cdc.gov/tips to obtain free assistance and resources to help them quit. Additional information about the Tips® campaign, including published articles and links to the ads, is also available on the Tips® Website. Questions not answered on the website, or feedback about the campaign, can be sent to CDC-INFO.

CDC Resources

Tips From Former Smokers® ─ About the Campaign

I’m Ready to Quit!

What is wrong with the quality, appearance, taste and/or smell of my tap water?
Image of person in a kitchen, washing vegetables with tap water

If you’re concerned about the quality of your tap water, talk to your state, local, or tribal water department. You may also contact the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safe Drinking Water HotlineExternal.

EPA and state, local, and tribal authorities set standards for the quality of tap water.

Even if your tap water meets EPA standards, you still may not like the way it looks, tastes, or smells. For this reason, EPA has a secondary set of standardsExternal based on these properties, rather than health effects. State and public water systems often decide to adopt these standards.

External Resources

EPA Safe Drinking Water HotlineExternal
1-800-426-4791

Where can I find information about the morning-after pill, Plan B, and other forms of contraception?

Please contact your doctor or healthcare provider about contraceptive birth control options. Your doctor knows your health history and risks and is the best source for information specific to you. As with all medications or pharmaceutical products, contraceptives must be used as directed. If directions are not followed, the risk of failure increases.

You can find more information about forms of birth control on CDC’s Reproductive Health: Contraception Website.

Emergency contraceptivesExternal should be started within 72 hours after unprotected sex. The earlier started, the more effective it appears to be.

If you don’t have a doctor, contact your local health departmentExternal for names of clinics in your area that can provide services at reduced cost or no cost to you.

CDC Resources

How effective are birth control methods?

Reproductive Health

External Resources

U.S. HHS Title X Family Planning: Find a Family Planning ClinicExternal
1-866-640-7827

U.S. HHS: The National Women’s Health Information CenterExternal
1-800-994-9662

U.S. National Institutes of Health, Birth ControlExternal

USDA Birth Control GuideCdc-pdfExternal

How do genes affect obesity?
Image of family of children, parents, and grandparents preparing food in the kitchen

In some cases, genes do play a direct role in obesity. However, the more typical type of obesity is the result of the interaction between dozens (or hundreds) of genes and a person’s environment.  Research is still emerging on how genes affect obesity-causing factors such as appetite (feeling hungry or full) and metabolism (how the body uses energy from the food you eat).

Some genetic disorders can directly cause obesity. These include:

However, genes don’t always predict health. Genetics may affect weight in some people, but obesity is most likely caused by a combination of factors, including:

  • Multiple genes,
  • Behavior (for instance, a person may eat too much or exercise too little), and
  • Environment (where people live might determine how often they exercise, or what food is available).

CDC Resources

Overweight and Obesity: Causes and Consequences

Overweight and Obesity

Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity

Are there nutrition guidelines and recommendations available from CDC?
Image of woman in the grocery store, with shopping basket filled with fresh vegetables

CDC offers the following resources for nutrition and healthy eating:

You can find more dietary guidelines from:

CDC Resources

Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight

Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity

External Resources

USDA Super TrackerExternal

U.S.HHS and USDA Dietary Guidelines for AmericansExternal

USDA ChooseMyPlate.govExternal

U.S.HHS and USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010Cdc-pdfExternal

Are athletes and other people with a lot of muscle considered overweight when their Body Mass Index (BMI) is over 25?

Body Mass Index (BMI) is measured using a person’s height and weight, which includes both muscle and fat. BMI is not a direct measure of body fat.  Some people, like athletes, may have a high BMI due to muscle, and not body fat.

While a person with a BMI in the overweight range may not have excess body fat, most people with a BMI in the obese range do.

Weight is only one factor related to risk for disease. If you have questions or concerns about your weight, talk to your doctor.

CDC Resources

About Adult BMI

Assessing Your Weight

Adult BMI Calculator: English

Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity

When should a mother avoid breastfeeding?

Human breast milk is the best food for all infants, but there are rare cases when human breast milk or breastfeeding is not recommended.

You should NOT breastfeed or feed expressed breast milk to your baby if you:

  • Have HIV
  • Have suspected or confirmed Ebola virus disease
  • Are taking antiretroviral medicines, which are used to treat HIV and some types of cancer
  • Have active tuberculosis (a lung infection) and have not been treated by a doctor
  • Have human T-cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV) type I or type II
  • Use or depend on any illegal drugs, except if you are a narcotic-dependent mother enrolled in a supervised methadone program and have a negative screening for HIV infection and other illicit drugs
  • Are being treated for cancer with chemotherapy

Women undergoing radiation therapy to treat cancer should also stop breastfeeding for a short time.

Babies born with a disorder called galactosemiaExternal should not be breastfed. People with this disorder cannot process a type of sugar called galactose, which is naturally found in milk.

Talk to your doctor if you have questions about whether it is safe for you to breastfeed. Your doctor can review your situation and determine whether you need to stop breastfeeding.

CDC Resources

Breastfeeding: Diseases and Conditions

Breastfeeding

Contraindications to Breastfeeding or Feeding Expressed Breast Milk to Infants

External Resources

Policy Statement: Breastfeeding and the Use of Human MilkExternal

American Academy of Pediatrics

The Transfer of Drugs and Other Chemicals Into Human MilkExternal

External Publications

HHS Blueprint for Action on Breastfeeding, 2000Cdc-pdfExternal

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health

What can adults do to maintain good oral health?

You can take the following steps to maintain good oral health:

  • Drink fluoridated water and use fluoride toothpaste to prevent tooth decay.
  • Take care of your teeth and gums by brushing twice a day and flossing every day.
  • Avoid all forms of tobacco. Smokers have twice the risk of gum disease compared to non-smokers. Cigarettes, smokeless, and other forms of tobacco cause cancer of the mouth.
  • Limit alcohol. Heavy use of alcohol, especially combined with tobacco, cause at least 75% of head and neck cancers.
  • Avoid eating too many processed sugary snacks.
  • Visit the dentist regularly. Check-ups can detect early signs of tooth decay, gum disease, and other problems, and treatment can prevent further damage or reverse the problem.
  • If you have diabetes, take steps to control the disease. People with diabetes have an increased risk of gum disease.
  • Talk to your doctor about medications that cause dry mouth. If dry mouth can’t be avoided, drink plenty of water and avoid tobacco and alcohol.

CDC Resources

Smoking, Gum Disease, and Tooth Loss

Guide for Quitting Smoking

External Resources

Oral HealthExternal

U.S. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

Head and Neck CancersExternal

National Cancer Institute, NIH

Prevent diabetes problems: Keep your mouth healthyExternal

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

Gum Disease Risk Factors External

American Academy of Periodontology

What is excessive alcohol use?

Excessive alcohol use includes:

Heavy drinking is:

  • More than 14 drinks per week for men, or
  • More than 7 drinks per week for women.

Binge drinking is:

  • 5 or more drinks on an occasion (2-3 hours) for men, or
  • 4 or more drinks on an occasion for women.

To learn more, visit www.cdc.gov/alcoholportal. If you believe that you or someone you know has a drinking problemExternal, talk to your doctor, or call the National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service at 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357).

CDC Resources

Alcohol and Public Health

Alcohol and Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions

Alcohol and Public Health: Additional Resources

External Resources

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

U.S. National Institutes of Health

http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinkingExternal

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

http://www.samhsa.gov/External

How do you know if you have a drinking problem?

Not all excessive drinkers have an alcohol use disorder. Severe alcohol use disorders – also known as alcohol dependence – can be diagnosed by a doctor. Symptoms of alcohol dependence include:

  • Inability to limit drinking.
  • Continuing to drink despite personal or professional problems.
  • Needing to drink more to get the same effect.
  • Wanting a drink so badly you can’t think of anything else.

If you feel that you or someone you know has a drinking problem, talk to your doctor, or call the National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service at 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357).

CDC Resources

Alcohol and Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions

Alcohol and Public Health: Additional Resources

Alcohol and Public Health

External Resources

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

U.S. National Institutes of Health

http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/External

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

U.S.Department of Health and Human Services

http://www.samhsa.gov/External

How soon should I get tested if I think I have been exposed to HIV?

Visit your healthcare provider or clinic that offers HIV testing as soon as possible to find out all your HIV testing options.

You should also talk to a healthcare provider right away about post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). PEP means taking HIV medicine after being potentially exposed to HIV to prevent becoming infected. PEP must be started within 72 hours after a possible exposure, but the sooner you start PEP, the better.

Until you get your HIV test results

  • Either don’t have sex or use a condom the right way every time you have sex.
  • Don’t inject drugs–but if you do, don’t share needles or other equipment to inject drugs (sometimes called “works”).

If you get an HIV test less than 3 months after a possible exposure and the result is negative, you need to be tested again later to be sure you’re HIV-negative.

The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. If you need help finding a testing site near you,

You can also get a home testing kit from a drugstore or online. There are 2 FDA-approved home tests:

  • The Home Access HIV-1 Test System and the
  • OraQuick HIV Test.

CDC Resources

HIV Risk Reduction Tool (BETA)
https://wwwn.cdc.gov/hivrisk/

HIV Basics: Testing
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/testing.html

National HIV and STD Testing Resources
https://gettested.cdc.gov/

External Resources

AIDS.govExternal: Testing
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

What are the different screening tests for HIV?

There are 3 types of HIV tests:

Some tests check for HIV infection in the blood, and some use a swab to check for HIV in oral fluid.

NO test can detect HIV immediately after a person is infected. The time between infection and when a test can detect the presence of HIV is called the window period, and it varies depending on the type of test.

The only way to know if you have HIV is to get testedCdc-pdf. If you need help finding a testing site near you,

You can also get a home testing kit from a drugstore or online. There are 2 FDA-approved home tests:

  • The Home Access HIV-1 Test System and the
  • OraQuick HIV Test.

CDC Resources

HIV Testing
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/testing.html

HIV/AIDS: Laboratory Tests
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/testing/laboratorytests.html

HIV Risk Reduction Tool (BETA)
https://wwwn.cdc.gov/hivrisk

National HIV and STD Testing Resources
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
https://gettested.cdc.gov/

Page last reviewed: September 24, 2018