One Birmingham breast cancer survivor’s story of how early detection saved her life + expert advice

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October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Photo via Unsplash

Did you know that one in eight U.S. women will develop breast cancer? It’s likely you know someone braving this disease: a mother, sister, daughter, aunt or friend. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, learn the importance of screening from two inspiring women: a breast cancer survivor and an expert at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama.

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A breast cancer survivor’s brave battle

Jill And Her Family At Race For The Cure. Photo Via Jill Carter
Jill and her family at Race for the Cure. Photo via Jill Carter

Fighting cancer is not for the faint of heart. Take it from Jill Carter, a breast cancer survivor.

Jill was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer when she was 40 years old.

The diagnosis was such a shock. I had three children at the time ranging from age six to 15. And we were deep in the throes of raising children. Breast cancer was the furthest thing from my mind.

Jill Carter, Breast Cancer Survivor

For three and a half years, she spent a lot of time at the UAB O’Neil Comprehensive Cancer Center. She went through all the treatments: surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. When it was time to put up the fight of her life, Jill was ready.

“Battling breast cancer can be overwhelming, and it can be scary. There were times I just had to break it down and say ‘take it one day at a time. You can do this. You have a source of strength within you.’ And that helps you to fight.”

Jill Carter, Breast Cancer Survivor

Then, in 2012, Jill got to do what every cancer patient dreams of—ring the bell. She was cancer-free.

2012 was just the beginning of Jill’s journey as a survivor. Now, she is involved with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama where she helps raise money for breast cancer research in Alabama. Along with this, she is a lifelong advocate for getting your mammograms and doing self-checks.

These screenings for breast cancer could save your life—they saved Jill’s life.

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Hear from an expert

Dr. Schmidt Is An Expert In Breast Cancer.
Dr. Schmidt is board-certified in Family Medicine. Photo via Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

Now, let’s learn from a breast cancer expert. If you have questions about breast cancer, Dr. Anne Schmidt has answers. Dr. Schmidt is board-certified in Family Medicine and serves as the Senior Medical Director for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama.

According to Dr. Schmidt, 330,000 U.S. women were diagnosed with breast cancer last year. Although there is no way to prevent this cancer, you can lower risk factors by:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising
  • Screening
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So, when should you start getting screened for breast cancer? Dr. Schmidt says that women between 50 and 79 years old are at average risk for breast cancer, and should get a mammogram every two years.

She added that it is important for women between 40 and 49 years old to speak to their healthcare provider about their risk and personalized recommendation for screening.

Then for women in their 20s and 30s, talk to your provider about breast cancer screening when you get your cervical screenings. You can talk about your family history and personal risks which will let your physician weigh in on the right time to start screening.

Dr. Schmidt, Senior Medical Director, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

Along with getting your breast exam, Dr. Schmidt encourages doing self-checks. She mentions that many women find out they have breast cancer through noticing a small bump or lump in the breast tissue or under the arm.

Dr. Schmidt’s biggest piece of advice? Get your mammogram and be aware of changes in your body. If it’s time for a mammogram, call your doctor and schedule an appointment.

Learn more about breast cancer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama.

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Sonia Kerrigan
Sonia Kerrigan
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