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Sacramento organization Albie Aware fights breast cancer year-round

Sacramento organization works to ensure breast cancer patients have tools to navigate diagnosis
Sacramento organization works to ensure breast cancer patients have tools to navigate diagnosis 03:19

SACRAMENTO — While October is usually the month breast cancer awareness is in the spotlight, Albie Aware is getting life-saving tips out to the public 365 days a year.

For founder Doug Carson, this mission is a personal one. The organization is named in honor of his late wife Alberta "Albie" Carson, who died at 52 after initially being told she had beat breast cancer and given a clean bill of health during a six-month checkup.

"Two weeks later, she had a pain in her eye. It started watering, so we went to an ophthalmologist and he sent her for an MRI, and she came back terminal," Doug Carson said. "There was a brain tumor behind her eye."

She was given two years to live but sadly died six months later. Doug was outraged and demanded answers from the doctor who had said her blood test and examination at the checkup came back clean. 

"He said you cannot determine metastasizes unless you do an MRI or PET/CT scan," Doug said.

When he questioned why that wasn't ordered, the doctor said the insurance companies would never approve that because it isn't standard protocol. He is now working, through Albie Aware, to be an advocate for cancer patients, helping them learn what questions to ask to best support their own journey.

"I don't want other people to suffer like I did just because the insurance companies don't authorize the test," Doug said.

Doug encourages anyone who might have questions about their cancer journey to make Albie Aware their first phone call.

Albie Aware has tales of success stories where patients credit their lives to the lifesaving tests covered by the organization that their own insurance companies wouldn't authorize.

"You have to be an advocate for your own health. I don't care if it's breast cancer or what, you have to be an advocate," Doug said.

Executive Director Courtney Quinn is also a breast cancer survivor and stressed the importance of early detection, saying blood tests like one currently being considered by Congress to be covered by Medicare could be a game-changer.

"It will be a blood draw test of up to 50 types of cancer, some that there are currently no current exams out there for," Quinn said. "That's where we want to see that change because that is the future."

Doug went through the study test for the blood draw test created by the company GRAIL and he came back negative. His blood samples will be used in future studies to continue learning about important early detection options.

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