Local educator a ‘thriving survivor’ thanks to early breast cancer detection


COLUMBIA, Tenn. — Almost 17 years after her breast cancer diagnosis, Carol Ann Jent describes herself as a “thriving survivor.”

The longtime educator has been with Maury County Public Schools (MCPS) for more than 20 years and currently serves as the principal at Woodard Elementary School in Columbia. Every October, Jent and the Woodard staff and students show their support for breast cancer survivors by covering the school in pink — lining the halls, on bulletin boards, worn on T-shirts and even streaked through students’ hair — along with signs stating, “early detection saves lives.”

That kind of support helped Jent make it through her battle. An early diagnosis was also key.

“I’m a thriving survivor thanks to the support of this community, my family and my doctors at Maury Regional Health,” she said. “I’m also a testament that early detection saves lives. It saved mine.”

Jent has been at Woodard since 2017, serving as assistant principal until she was named principal in 2021. She was also previously the assistant principal for six years at Riverside Elementary School and prior to that taught at Mt. Pleasant Elementary as well as in Lawrence County.

It was while she was a teacher at Mt. Pleasant Elementary in 2007 when Jent was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Just 37 years old at the time, she was in the habit of doing breast self-exams after two close friends were diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age. Her grandmother also had breast cancer.

One day, Jent found a lump that turned out to be about the size of a grape. She immediately contacted her doctor and got scheduled for a mammogram, followed by an ultrasound and biopsy, which confirmed stage 2 breast cancer.

“When I found the lump, there was just something inside of me that said do not ignore this,” she said. “It went on from there, and it was just a rollercoaster.”

Jent underwent a successful lumpectomy procedure, followed by cancer treatments at Maury Regional Cancer Center in Columbia.Carol Ann Jent stands in front of J. E. Woodard Elementary School.

Through the tough times, it was the support of her husband, Mark, along with her family, fellow educators and students, and the staff at Maury Regional that helped her fight. It seemed like there was always someone there to help with getting to an appointment, giving a hug or offering a word of encouragement.

“I had about two years of treatment, and I couldn’t have been able to do it without my family, the support from Maury County Public Schools and Maury Regional,” Jent said. “My mom always would tell me she just wanted my neck to hug — that was my focus.”

Now going on 17 years as a survivor, Jent is an advocate for early cancer screenings.

“Go get your mammogram,” Jent said. “You need to be an advocate for your own health. Do not miss your appointments — go get your mammograms and listen to your doctors. Early detection could save your life.”

Maury Regional Health recommends all adults consult with their primary care provider about their cancer risk factors and if screenings are appropriate. It’s recommended that all women ages 40 and older receive an annual mammogram.

Mammography services are provided by Maury Regional Health at the Maury Regional Women’s Center in Columbia, Lewis Health Center in Hohenwald, Marshall Medical Center in Lewisburg, Wayne Medical Center in Waynesboro and Spring Hill Imaging Center in Spring Hill.

Maury Regional Medical Center is accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers by the American College of Surgeons and as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology.

For more information, visit MauryRegional.com/Breast-Health.

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