AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)– As you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we continue to shine the spotlight on this disease that takes far too many women from us. Too many of our sisters and our mothers, our friends. So today we’re gonna talk with LisaAnn Wheeler. She’s the patient navigator for the breast and cervical cancer screening program with the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The BCCP provides uninsured and underinsured women with free annual exams and screenings. The East Central Georgia Health Department provides screenings to low income underinsured women. And it’s not just breast cancer screening.

“Correct, we do also offer Pap and HPV testing to go along with a clinical breast exam and a mammogram referral.”

Would these be women who are typically coming to the health department or are they not necessarily set up? How do women get into this sort of a screening?

“Right, possibly it could be women that we have seen in the past. Also I do a lot of outreach reaching women in the 13 counties that I cover and bringing them into the appropriate health department for their county.”

Carolyn Byrd is a breast cancer survivor. She’s one of third of the Reduce Your Risk team!

“Okay, so Reduce Your Risk was started a little of a year ago and our goal is to reduce the risk of breast cancer and breast cancer recurrence. And we do this through monthly walks in the CSRA. We do it every month and we call it our mobile wall awareness. And you know, everybody talks about a cure, but nobody talks about prevention. So we actually want to talk about preventing breast cancer as well. So we talk about the different ways that we need to eat right. Get our sleep, manage our stress, and you know, and exercise. And we need to make sure that we’re doing these things to help reduce our risk of breast cancer.”

Angela Prince is also a survivor who knows the importance of raising awareness.

“It’s very important. I mean, I was a mother, I had three kids. I was a wife, I was working full time and I found a lump myself. And my world just, you know, stopped. And so, and I thought I was just too busy. Too busy to go get checked. Too busy to really take care of myself. And I think it’s a barrier that a lot of women have. And so I’m telling you, it was just crazy how we all got together. But my eyebrows fell out when I had chemo. I had stage four, it spread to my lung.

“I had to go 16 rounds of chemo, radiation. I had double mastectomy. It was a very long road. And so once I recovered, I was like, hey, what am I? I’m gonna do somebody’s eyebrows. So I put, I was on Facebook on a public forum and I was just talked about, you know, anybody know where I can get, you know, my eyebrows microbladed. And so a news report actually saw it and I did a segment on breast cancer and the segment was really good. It talked about, you know, disparities and breast cancer about, you know, women of color. We get breast cancer earlier ’cause, you know, I was only 45 at the time and we die faster and we get very aggressive form of breast cancer as well, you know, compared to our counterparts. So it aired, Carolyn saw the news story. She was actually my breast cancer navigator. I was her first patient!”

That’s how LisaAnn, Carolyn and Angela came up with “Reduce Your Risk.”

Once a month, they have community walks.

“Yes, we go to different areas in the CSRA and we talk about the 12 and 13 different ways actually that cancer can present itself. ‘Cause most women think it’s just a lump. And a lot of women think when they check their breasts that they’re, if they’re looking for a lump, but they also need to check underneath their arms and also in the clavicle area ’cause you can also have lymph nodes there that can be cancer. And a lot of women don’t know that they’re looking for a lump and it may not be a lump.”

Wheeler says it’s been a game changer.

“An absolute game changer ’cause women don’t know there are 12 signs of breast cancer. They only think about lump. And I’ve actually, there are women that have been diagnosed off of that poster that we have, the cards that we have.”

So have you had your mammogram? The Georgia Department of Public Health offers breast and cervical cancer screenings for uninsured and underinsured women. Call LisaAnn Wheeler at 706 667-4255 to see if you qualify.