Posts Tagged "Health"


The lack of health data about Black Canadians can be life-threatening: study – National

by BBG Hub

Black Canadian women may be under-screened for cervical and breast cancer due to the lack of health data collected about Black Canadians more broadly, a new report suggests.

A new literature review from the University of Toronto noted Black Canadians make up the third largest minority group in the country, but researchers could find only 23 studies pertaining to breast cancer, cervical cancer and Black Canadian women within in the last 15 years.

This is especially alarming because there is some evidence to suggest Black women could be predisposed to worse outcomes from these diseases.

A 2016 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Black American women are more likely than white women to get triple-negative breast cancer, a highly aggressive type of cancer known to return after treatment.

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“Although this scoping review was focused on breast and cervical cancer in the Black Canadian population, the bigger issue is the fact that in Canada, so much is unknown when it comes to health disparities faced by minority groups, whether due to race [or] racism, ethnicity, or culture,” researchers said in the paper.

In reviewing the available data, researchers also found variation across different Black communities.

“Black Caribbean women appear to actually get screened at the same rate or even higher than white Canadian women, but Black women from sub-Saharan Africa appear less likely to be screened,” said lead author Dr. Onyenyechukwu Nnorom.

From left to right: Dr. Aisha Lofters, Dr. Onye Nnorom, and Nakia Lee-Foon.

From left to right: Dr. Aisha Lofters, Dr. Onye Nnorom, and Nakia Lee-Foon.

Photo: University of Toronto

Without research into the health of minority groups, differences like these go unnoticed and policy can’t be updated to reflect the group’s unique needs — effectively leaving them vulnerable.

Nnorom says this contributes to the larger problem of systemic racism in Canadian health care, which can affect everything from the individual patient to the medical trials that receive funding and the ones that don’t.

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“On the individual level … the woman who is diagnosed with breast cancer is saying … ‘I need you to believe me. I need some answers about how this could affect me [as a Black woman],’” said Nnorom.

“A lot of providers, because it’s not in our guidelines, it’s not part of our practice.”

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Cancer remains taboo in many Black communities

The lack of health data about Black Canadians can start a vicious cycle of misinformation that leads to taboo within the Black community.

Without accurate data, there’s little information available for patients, and without information, members of the community remain unaware of their unique risks. This can lead a disease or procedure to become a taboo — something cancer still is within the Black community.

Leila Springer has seen this first-hand, first as a cancer patient and then in her volunteer work.

Hallmark Network denies racism allegations

Hallmark Network denies racism allegations

“The word cancer alone presents a certain amount of fear … It’s almost synonymous with death,” said Springer.

“We have to work at educating them to the point that they understand that kind of diagnosis of cancer doesn’t mean a death sentence.”

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In Springer’s experience, education is the key to dispelling the taboo.

“We want women to know that they can access certain services … but a lot of them don’t because talking about it is sort of trouble,” she said. “They find it difficult to share with their family members.

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“I’ve heard some stories about women whose mother died from breast cancer, but they had no idea until after the funeral and they were going through papers.”

But in order to properly educate these women, Springer needs access to updated health data — which doesn’t really exist yet.

“When I was diagnosed [with cancer] that’s the one thing I wanted to know. I wanted information about the type of cancer I had, I wanted to know how many people that looked like me had this type of cancer, and I wanted to know how many of them survived,” she said.

“I couldn’t find that information.”

That’s why she started the Olive Branch of Hope, a community organization in Toronto that advocates for Black women, supports research efforts and serves as a place of support for patients.

READ MORE: Dalhousie researcher hopes to create new mental health service for Black women

“[When I had cancer], I’d find myself sitting in groups where there were mainly Caucasian women that attended,” she said.

Springer admitted it’s gotten better over the years, but the ways in which women deal with a cancer diagnosis is largely informed by culture — and the support groups at the Olive Branch strive to recognize that.

“We make our support groups different,” she said.

Research and data are needed to change health guidelines

It’s crucial to collect health data about different groups of people because hard numbers are what make it possible to update policy. If it’s true that Black Canadian women also tend to have worse breast and cervical cancer outcomes, screening guidelines should be amended to begin earlier for those women than it does now.

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“I’ll give you an example,” Nnorom said. “Within the Ashkenazi [Jewish] population, there has been research to show that these are people who carry genes that put them at higher risk for breast cancer.”

This means Ashkenazi Jewish patients begin frequent cancer screening at an earlier age, a guideline recommended by the government and one which effectively saves lives.

READ MORE: Man becomes 1st African American, oldest patient to receive a face transplant

In Nnorom’s view, Canada’s health care system can only be improved once medical researchers and front-line workers begin to address — and accommodate — the risks and needs of different racialized groups.

“One of my colleagues was saying we’re pretty much at the point … where it’s willful blindness, because we know that there are disparities linked to either race or ethnicity on ancestry and other issues and we’re not looking into it,” she said.

“The world lives here. We should be leading the world on these issues.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Double lung transplant due to vaping performed in U.S. may be first ever – National

by BBG Hub

Detroit doctors have performed what they believe is the first double lung transplant on a patient whose lungs were “irreparably” damaged from vaping.

A brief statement made Monday by the Henry Ford Hospital said the patient has asked for privacy at this time, but has asked his medical team to share photographs and an update to warn others about the harms of vaping.

The hospital is holding a press conference to discuss the case on Tuesday afternoon.

“It would be nice if it’s the last — if the epidemic of acute lung injury can be brought under control,” Dr. David Christiani, a professor of medicine at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said to the Associated Press.

READ MORE: How dangerous is vaping? What we know about its health risks

Christiani, who was not involved in the medical procedure, said he’s not sure if the number of double lung transplants due to vaping illnesses will increase. He said factors include the availability of donor lungs and the chronic effects of illnesses from vaping that could lead to other types of conditions.

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As of November, more than 2,000 cases of vaping-related lung injury have been reported in the U.S., and at least 39 people have died, according to the government’s health agency.

The agency says more deaths are under investigation.

Health Canada said there are currently seven confirmed or probable cases of severe lung illness related to vaping as of November. These cases include two in Quebec, two in New Brunswick and three in British Columbia.

New study finds a third of New Brunswick youth have tried vaping

New study finds a third of New Brunswick youth have tried vaping

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced a breakthrough into the cause of a vaping illness outbreak. The agency called the chemical compound vitamin E acetate a “very strong culprit” after finding it in fluid taken from the lungs of 29 patients.

Vitamin E acetate was previously found in liquid from electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices used by many who got sick and only recently has been used as a vaping fluid thickener.

Health experts are concerned, as many youths and teens have tried vaping or do currently vape.

READ MORE: Nearly 1 in 4 teens have tried vaping — Here’s how parents can talk about it

According to a recent Health Canada survey, nearly one in four students in grades 7 to 12 have tried electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes.

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What’s more, a 2017 study found that teenagers who use e-cigarettes are at risk of graduating to tobacco smoking.

Dr. David Hammond, a professor of public health at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, previously told Global News that the long-term health effects of vaping are still not fully known.

Vaping may be safer than smoking cigarettes he said, but it still poses potential harm.

READ MORE: Health Canada says it is ‘actively monitoring’ U.S. vaping illness progress

“Most of the chronic diseases that people hypothesize might be involved [in vaping] are things like cardiovascular disease and other lung problems,” Hammond said.

“Those do take a decade or two before they appear, just as the case for smoking… it’s not a benign activity.”

— With files from the Associated Press 

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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What is gout? What you need to know about this painful disease – National

by BBG Hub

If you have gout, you’ll know it.

Shannon Youn, a chiropodist at Feet First Clinic in Toronto, tells Global News gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that is caused by hyperuricemia — high levels of uric acid in the blood.

“Chronically-elevated levels of uric acid can lead to the formation of crystals which deposit into a joint, resulting in the joint becoming red, hot, swollen, and painful,” she said.

“Hyperuricemia can develop if your body either produces too much uric acid or does not excrete enough through the kidneys.”

Assia Abibsi, a doctor of podiatric medicine and chiropodist at the Ottawa Foot Clinic, adds uric acid is a compound that appears in our bodies after eating certain foods. These can include red meat, seafood and the consumption of alcohol.

READ MORE: ‘Some days it’s debilitating’: When joint pain takes over your life

“Like any chemistry concept, if there is too much of something in a given quantity of liquid, it becomes too concentrated,” Abibsi said.

Gout has been seen as a “man’s disease” or one that only effects people who drink too much alcohol or consume too much meat. But it is also on the rise, experts add.

Dr. Debra Dye-Torrington, who works in the rheumatology department at Scarborough Health Network in Scarborough, Ont., added this reflects changes in demographic factors.

“These changes affect both modifiable and non-modifiable factors,” she said.

“Examples of modifiable rise factors are obesity, alcohol consumption and diet. Examples of non-modifiable factors are increasing longevity and age-associated diseases.”

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Most menstrual cycles aren’t 28 days — and that’s normal – National

by BBG Hub

Many believe the average menstrual cycle is 28 days, but new research has found only a small percentage of women fall within that range.

Research out of Sweden and the U.K. recently published in the journal npj Digital Medicine found that only 13 per cent of cycles are 28 days in length. Instead, the study concluded the average cycle is 29.3 days long.

Using a menstrual tracking app, researchers studied more than 600,000 ovulatory cycles from 124,648 users based in the U.K., U.S. and Sweden. They also found that despite the common belief that ovulation usually occurs on day 14 of a cycle, this is not the reality for most women.

READ MORE: All about your period — what’s normal, and when you should see a doctor

The follicular phase — which is when follicles in the ovary mature, resulting in ovulation — can range from 12 days to 19 days, researchers wrote.

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This variation in cycle length is completely normal, says Dr. Yolanda Kirkham, an OBGYN at St. Joseph’s Health Centre Toronto and Women’s College Hospital.

“Not everybody is 28 days,” Kirkham said. “Twenty-eight is an average, but [cycles] can range anywhere from 21 to 35 days.”

Why menstrual cycles vary

Your cycle length depends on when you ovulate, Kirkham said. That’s what triggers your cycle.

“What happens is the ovary releases the egg… and then two weeks later, if there’s no pregnancy, that’s when people bleed,” Kirkham said.

Period myths debunked

Period myths debunked

That means if someone ovulates on day 14, their period will likely come on day 28, she said. But if a person ovulates earlier that month on day 10, their period would come sooner.

What’s more, cycles can vary from month to month. This means even if you had a 30-day cycle one month, you could have a 28-day cycle the next, Kirkham said.

Aside from the physiological trigger of ovulation, there are other factors that affect menstrual cycle length. This can include things like stress, nutrition and changes in weight, Kirkham said.

Hormonal conditions, like polycystic ovarian syndrome, can affect one’s cycle, too. So can chronic diseases.

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READ MORE: Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women – here’s how to recognize the symptoms

“If someone is quite ill, it’s not going to be their bodies’ priority to have pregnancy, so their periods can disappear,” Kirkham said.

“And then there’s also structural things, like if people grow polyps, fibroids, or they have infections or cancer.”

Age is another factor. When a person first gets their period, it can take two to three years for their cycles to regulate, Kirkham said.

“It’s very normal for young women to sometimes have skipped cycles or bleed excessively as well, because the ovulation process is not in order yet,” she said.

Women need twice as many public washrooms as men: U.K. report

Women need twice as many public washrooms as men: U.K. report

Once people hit reproductive age, cycles are more regular, Kirkham said. This means cycles can be anywhere from 21 to 35 days.

“In the perimenopause time — so the late 40s, early 50s — it’s kind of like puberty and again we’re losing some of that ovulation,” she said. “You lose the proper timing of the periods.”

If people are on the birth control pill, their periods become much more regulated and predictable. This is because the pill causes “withdrawal bleeds,” Kirkham said, which are caused by a drop in hormones.

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READ MORE: ‘My mood plummets’ — When PMS symptoms could be something more

“Withdrawal bleeds doesn’t mean they’re not healthy or safe,” she added. “I call them ‘period control pills’ because they are actually very effective for reducing flow and reducing pain — especially in light of abnormal periods.”

What’s abnormal?

Kirkham says people should see their doctors if they experience excessive bleeding, go more than three months without a period and are not pregnant, or have severe period-related pain.

“A little bit of mild cramps —  something some over-the-counter painkillers can help with — is normal, but anything where you have to continuously take painkillers or you’re missing school or work is abnormal,” she said.

What are menstrual cups?

What are menstrual cups?

People should also seek medical advice if they are concerned about fibroids or polyps.

“These types of things can be checked out by your doctor with an ultrasound,” Kirkham said. “They may not necessarily need to do an invasive examination.”

Kirkham also recommends women read more about menstrual cycles on the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada’s website.

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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What it’s like living with the BRCA gene mutation: ‘It’s just so hard’ – National

by BBG Hub

Jackie O’Grady was 54 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast. But she had a plan to fight it: a double mastectomy and radiation, to lessen the chances of it coming back.

Then, in the midst of her treatment, she received more bad news: she had tested positive for the BRCA2 gene mutation.

“I was way, way more upset than I was about having the cancer diagnosis.”

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“Because I have children. I have a granddaughter, and I can pass it on.”

Jackie O’Grady has had numerous health concerns after multiple surgeries because of her BRCA2 gene mutation.

Jackie O’Grady has had numerous health concerns after multiple surgeries because of her BRCA2 gene mutation.

Photo by Ima Ortega, art by Laura Whelan

The BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are a change in chromosomes that make your chances of getting cancer higher. Canadians can have their blood tested at the recommendation of a genetic counselor or family doctor if they have a history of breast or ovarian cancer in the family.

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They are passed from parent to child — from both the mother or the father to a child of either gender. The chances a child has the gene mutation one of their parents has is 50 per cent.

Identifying the signs of breast cancer

Identifying the signs of breast cancer

It means people carrying the gene are more likely to get breast and ovarian cancer — and other related cancers — than the average person. For women with a gene mutation, it can mean she has up to 80 per cent chance of getting breast cancer in her lifetime. The average woman has a one in eight (12.5 per cent) chance of getting breast cancer in her lifetime.

Men with the BRCA2 gene mutation are eight times more likely to get breast cancer before they are 80 years old, and men with the BRCA1 mutation have an increased chance of getting prostate cancer.

Melanoma and pancreatic cancer are also associated with the gene.

O’Grady — who also has had treatments for melanoma — is taking precautions as much as she can to mitigate her risks: she says she’s eating healthier and exercising more, as well as wearing sunscreen and using a topical CBD oil to mitigate the melanoma risks.

But there’s always a worry in the back of her mind about her health.

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“You don’t know if it’s ever gonna be gone for good, or where it’s going to turn up next,” she told Global News.

Doctors recommend more intense screening for those with the gene mutation: in Ontario, women over 30 with the gene are able to get mammograms once a year, as well as a breast MRI and ultrasounds, which isn’t part of the screening for the average woman. Each province has it’s own set of regulations, but they are similar.

The emotional toll of breast cancer

The emotional toll of breast cancer

For men, more regular prostate exams are recommended.

Since ovarian cancer is harder to diagnose, and many are late-stage diagnosis, doctors recommend women who have already had children to get an oophorectomy — where they remove the ovaries and Fallopian tubes, but not the uterus.

That comes with its own set of side-effects, including induced menopause, and along with it symptoms like hot flashes, a decreased sex drive, vaginal dryness and mood swings. While there are hormone replacement medications, the symptoms can persist.

‘I’m not just one gene’

That was a concern for Lauralyn Johnston of Toronto — who found out she had an aggressive version of the BRCA1 gene in 2017. While she didn’t have cancer, she got tested because a family member tested positive for the gene mutation.

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But since her family has a history of dementia after menopause, inducing that was something she didn’t want to start early.

“I’m not just one gene,” she said. “Explaining to my medical professional that I’m not just my (gene mutation) was kind of a recurring theme.”

She did her own research and decided to get a salpingectomy, removing the Fallopian tubes and leaving the ovaries.

Lauralyn Johnston, who has the BRCA1 gene mutation, and her daugher Eria Byrne.

Lauralyn Johnston, who has the BRCA1 gene mutation, and her daugher Eria Byrne.

Handout. Artwork by Laura Whelan

At the moment, this is not a standard,” said Dr. Christine Elser, a medical oncologist at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

“We don’t know if it is as effective as removing the ovaries as well. But that is a procedure that once we learn more about, may have a role in a better quality of life.”

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Johnston said she wanted to balance her quality of life with her life expectancy — and has come to terms with the fact that her lifespan may not be as long as 84 years old, the average age of a Canadian woman according to Statistics Canada.

So while there may still be a risk of ovarian cancer because she still has her ovaries, she believes her life will be better because of it.

For Maja Adolfo-Piwek of Toronto, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at 39, the side effects of her two mastectomies and oophorectomy are constant.

“You can go back to your life, but you can never really go back to your life,” Adolfo-Piwek said.

Her side effects include hair loss, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness, which she says is “quite painful.”

“They told me about the hot flashes, but they never told me about all the other stuff.”

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I think is there is a gap in the system, in the medical system where the oncologists, all they want you to do is just remove (your ovaries and breast) because they want to save your life. But they do not prepare you for what’s to come after that.

“And it’s just so hard.

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Maja Adolfo-Piwek was found out she had the BRCA2 gene at age 39.

Maja Adolfo-Piwek was found out she had the BRCA2 gene at age 39.

But in the end, Adolfo-Piwek called it a blessing in disguise, because now she’s forewarned.

“I can remove my ovaries and remove my other breast and lower my chance of having cancer. I mean, obviously, nothing is ever 100 per cent, but it will help me,” she said.

Moving forward

What’s most concerning for the women Global News spoke to is the risk to their children.

Adolfo-Piwek has a son with autism. O’Grady has two sons and a granddaughter. Johnston has a 17-year-old daughter. They all say they worry about what it means for them.

What it’s like to get cancer as a parent: ‘I began planning out my next 5 years’

But we’ve known about the BRCA gene mutations for decades now, and the science is only getting clearer as we learn more about the gene mutation.

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Johnston’s daughter Erya Byrne is in her first-year university, studying biochemistry. She said she was affected by watching her mom go through the surgeries she did.

In the end, she’s hopeful for the future.

“In the next 10 years, there’s so much happening in gene therapy and so much happening in cancer treatment,” Byrne said.

READ MORE: Cancer can severely damage your mental health. Why don’t we talk about it?

While she was always interested in biochemistry, Byrne said the experience has pushed her to look into studying oncology.

What does prevention look like? 

Dr. Elser, along with geneticist Dr. Raymond Kim of the Princess Margaret Cancer centre, said there are trials into how to prevent breast cancer going currently going on — including testing of PARP inhibitors. (Read more about what a PARP inhibitor is at the U.S. National Cancer Institute here.) 

Adolfo-Piwek is currently on one of those trials, saying she just wants to help people in the future.

Dr. Kim says the increased awareness and testing for the gene means they can proactively tackle it.

“A lot of young women who are concerned about their next generation too,” he said

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“What’s been available for decades is that we can engineer embryos to not carry the genetic mutation and put those back into the women so their daughters or son don’t carry that genetic change. So what we hope, if genetic testing was very pervasive in a family then the subsequent generations wouldn’t need to worry about that.”

Author chronicles family’s legacy of hereditary cancer

Author chronicles family’s legacy of hereditary cancer

As for the women themselves? They say they won’t let the gene stop them from living their lives.

I can’t let things ruin my life like that. I need to like my life,” O’Grady said. “I had a little bit of a pity party and then moved forward to smile again and have fun again and be strong.”

For Aldofo-Piwek, she calls every day with her son a blessing.

And for Johnston, the positive mutation diagnosis offered her a chance to do some things on her to-do list: “After a long engagement, I actually got married this summer. I ran for council.” (Unfortunately, the changes to the Toronto city districts meant her campaign for council didn’t go through to a vote.)

I just wanted to do something to make [the world] better. If every single person on earth just kind of goes with ‘I’ll leave things in better shape than I started with, we’ll do a lot better in the world.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Skin tags may be annoying, but are they dangerous? – National

by BBG Hub

Those soft, small pieces of skin that dangle under your armpits have a name: skin tags.

While often harmless, skin tags most commonly appear where skin creases or folds, like on the neck, armpits, around the groin or under breasts.

“They are typically slightly elevated, and may appear as stalk-like or pedunculated lesions,” said Dr. Sonya Cook, a dermatologist at Toronto’s Compass Dermatology.

READ MORE: Warts — What to know about the ‘mushroom-like’ growths on your skin

About one in four Canadians have skin tags, and they are among the most common benign skin tumours seen by family doctors, according to an article in medical journal Canadian Family Physician.

Skin tags vary in shape and can range in size from a few millimetres to the size of a pea. They are often skin-coloured or slightly pigmented, Cook said.

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What causes skin tags?

There’s no clear research explaining why skin tags occur, Cook said, but they typically appear in places where skin rubs against itself. The constant friction is believed to play a role in their development.

Skin tags are loose collagen fibres and blood vessels surrounded by skin, the U.K.’s National Health Service says. People who have Type 2 diabetes or are obese are more prone to developing them, as are pregnant women due to hormonal changes.

What is impetigo?

What is impetigo?

There may also be a genetic component to skin tags, said Dr. Anatoli Freiman, a dermatologist at the Toronto Dermatology Centre.

“Some people are just more predisposed to getting them,” he said, highlighting the fact that they are very common.

But unlike warts, these soft lesions are not contagious.

How can you get rid of skin tags?

You don’t really need to get rid of skin tags unless they are bothering you. Some people choose to have them removed for cosmetic reasons, or because they are in uncomfortable places.

READ MORE: More pregnant women are using cannabis despite its dangers

If you do want a skin tag removed, it’s best to talk to your health-care provider, said Freiman. Self-removal runs the risk of infection and scarring, he said.

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People can also mistake skin cancer growths for skin tags, Freiman pointed out, making it very important for people to seek medical advice for a proper diagnosis.

There are a few ways to remove skin tags.

Cook said small skin tags may be removed with electrocautery, which is done by medical professionals and uses an electrical current to create heat to remove the skin tag.

These are some of the best sources of B vitamins

These are some of the best sources of B vitamins

Cryotherapy is another treatment option, which freezes the skin tag for removal.

“We can sometimes snip them off with certain instruments,” Freiman added.

The cost of removing skin tags can range from $100 to $300 depending on treatment and how many skin tags you have, Freiman said.

READ MORE: Fatty liver isn’t just the result of too much alcohol. Here’s how to prevent it

The important thing is you don’t cut off skin tags at home with scissors, for example, or rip them off with your hands. Freiman stresses this can be dangerous.

“We see patients at least a few times a month who try an at-home method of removing the skin tags and they run into problems such as bleeding, complications and pigmentation changes — which are very difficult to reverse.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Sweeteners can be ‘hidden’ in your kids’ food — and parents may not even know – National

by BBG Hub

Allidina says these sweeteners can be found in a variety of products children consume, including everything from Jell-O to some juices like Sunny D to ice cream. Other items include pop, cereal bars, yogurt and more.

She says anytime you see labels like “low sugar,” “reduced sugar” or “no sugar” should be a red flag.

“Technically, artificial sweeteners are not sugar and sometimes food companies mix them with real sugar to decrease the total sugar in the food.”

When your child loves sweetness

But some children just love sugar and sweet-flavoured food and often, parents struggle to remove it from their diet. And when sugar or sweetness is hidden, it can be even harder to monitor what your child eats.

“Navigating sugar with kids is tricky, but not impossible,” Allidina said.

“Skip the artificial stuff — especially for kids. We get the sweetness but with 0 calories, which can lead to more sugar cravings to fill the void.”

Parents should also focus on introducing whole foods without packaging or wrappers.

“These foods include, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and lean protein as much as possible.”

READ MORE: What happens to your body when you stop eating sugar?

And besides carefully reading labels, look at the ingredient list.

“Try to stay clear of foods that have sugar listed as the first three ingredients – sugar has many names,” Allidina continued. “If these foods are your kid’s favourite, you can still offer it but less frequently.”

When you can, be a role model yourself.  “If your child sees you consuming soft drinks and sugary foods daily, then you need to change,” she stressed.

“Remember, kids learn by example. So make sure you are doing your part.”

Sometimes, though, you can’t escape sugar. Children end up consuming sugar at school or at birthday parties with friends. It’s important to look at a child’s diet overall, Allidina said.

“Start with simple swaps such as replacing or diluting juice for water or milk and cut back on the frequency of sugary treats.”

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Eating alone may not be good for your health: experts – National

by BBG Hub

Plenty of people eat lunch at their desk or gobble down a takeout dinner between driving their kids to extracurricular activities.

More Canadians are living alone than ever before, too, government data shows, meaning many home-cooked meals are eaten solo.

While attention is often focused on seniors eating and living alone, Kate Mulligan, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s School of Public Health, says the issue affects everyone.

“We see younger people — millennials, for example, or even younger — who are ordering in a lot or may not even have cooking facilities in their apartments,” Mulligan said.

READ MORE: Why aren’t Canadians cooking anymore?

But is eating alone actually that bad for your health? According to research, the harms may outweigh the benefits.

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How eating alone can harm you

“Eating alone is associated with a whole range of poor outcomes, and they’re correlated with similar outcomes for loneliness in general,” Mulligan said.

“When you eat alone, you’re more likely to eat standing up, you’re more likely to eat junk food and you’re less likely to think about mindful consumption.”

Benefits of shopping for your own food

Benefits of shopping for your own food

Because food can be a social experience, missing out on eating with others can make people feel isolated. One study out of Japan found that living and eating alone may increase the risk of depression in older adults.

Canada’s Food Guide also encourages people to eat with others. The guide says eating alone can lead to feelings of loneliness, especially for seniors.

The physical implications vary, but research suggests solo dining habits can negatively impact a person’s health.

One Korean report concluded that eating alone may be a potential risk factor for metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health problems including too much fat around the waist and elevated blood pressure. The condition — which can be caused by poor diet and lack of exercise — increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, HealthLink BC points out.

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READ MORE: Spending time alone isn’t weird or sad — it’s actually healthy

Eating alone can also affect what you eat.

A U.K. study found that older adults were at risk of having a lower-quality diet if they lived and ate alone.

Researchers found that being single or widowed was associated with a lower food variety score, especially for men. The study also found that lower levels of friend contact were linked to eating a reduced variety of fruits and vegetables.

Another Korean study concluded that people who eat alone have a nutritional intake below the recommended amount.

Easy meal prep for students

Easy meal prep for students

According to Mulligan, people may be more inclined to mindlessly eat or snack when they are by themselves compared to when they’re enjoying food with others. This can result in poorer food choices.

“We’re less conscious of what we’re doing when we’re alone or when we’re in a rush or in transit,” Mulligan said.

“With isolated seniors, for example, they often just don’t feel it is worth the effort to go through and prepare healthier foods when they’re alone.”

There’s also the impact on the planet. A recent article published in Quartz pointed out that solo eating can contribute to food waste.

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Research shows that more than half of food produced in Canada is wasted. Furthermore, avoidable food waste in the country produces more than 22 million tonnes of climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions.

How eating alone can benefit you

There are certainly benefits to spending time alone and learning to enjoy your own company.

A recent article published in the New York Times unpacked the ways people can enjoy eating alone and highlighted its benefits: a sense of self-indulgence and needed quiet time.

READ MORE: Men struggle to keep friends — and it’s hurting their mental health

Eating alone while travelling is often unavoidable and can be a great opportunity to connect with others.

Mulligan says for parents with young children, a meal alone can be an enjoyable break.

Still, this doesn’t mean solo dining should be the norm.

10 things you need to know before buying a meal kit

10 things you need to know before buying a meal kit

“I’m sure for some people and in some circumstances, it can be quite joyful to eat alone,” she said. “But that doesn’t make it healthier in the long run.”

To combat the effects of eating alone, Canada’s Food Guide suggests making plans to meet with friends or family members for meals and participating in community celebrations. It’s also a good idea to organize a rotating dinner event where people take turns hosting meals.

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At work, try to eat lunch in a common space with a colleague.

Mulligan puts it this way: “The evidence is pretty clear: in general, eating with other people is good for us.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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What it’s like to get cancer as a parent: ‘I began planning out my next 5 years’ – National

by BBG Hub

When Fiona Kingsley Boyer was six months pregnant, she started to notice bruising on her legs.

She was also very itchy, symptoms she thought were normal for someone carrying a child.

That February of 2018, the 32-year-old woman from Scarborough, Ont. says doctors noticed a lump on her neck.

READ MORE: Cancer can severely damage your mental health. Why don’t we talk about it?

She went to the ER to get an X-ray on a Sunday night and by Monday, she got the grim news: she had cancer.

“I was like, ‘What about the baby? Because all you think about is the baby… you don’t care about yourself.’”

Kingsley Boyer was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She was induced a month early before her due date and started chemotherapy two weeks after giving birth.

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Fiona Kingsley Boyer pregnant. Photo courtesy of Fiona Kingsley Boyer. Art by Laura Whelan. 

Doctors told her the cancer wouldn’t impact her unborn child, but Kingsley Boyer panicked.

“For days I thought I had days to live,” she said. “I began planning out my next five years with my kids.”

Getting a cancer diagnosis is one hurdle to jump over on your own, but when you have kids, it can add another layer of guilt, fear and anxiety. Some parents are separated from their children during chemotherapy, while others have a hard time explaining the diagnosis to their child.

Telling your kids about the ‘C’ word

Erlanger A. Turner, a licenced psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at Pepperdine University in Los Angeles, tells Global News most parents struggle to tell their children about their diagnosis.

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“It is important to be honest; most children will notice changes in their environment,” he explained.

“Be prepared to openly discuss your chronic illness but keep the conversations age-appropriate for your child.”

You can start with a conversation about what cancer is or offer reading material to older children.

“Having a cancer diagnosis also comes with some uncertainty,” he continued. “It is OK to talk with your child about what is involved in treatment. Finally, be prepared for your child to be anxious or worried about your health.”

5 ways cancer can impact mental health

5 ways cancer can impact mental health

Some children will think your cancer diagnosis is their fault. Open communication about what the cancer is and where it came from can help clear up confusion.

Kingsley Boyer and her husband didn’t tell their three-year-old right away. The two waited to find out if Kingsley Boyer would lose her hair or not, because she knew it would bring up questions. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is treatable, especially when it’s detected early.

“We told her mommy was ‘very sick,’ but she was going to get better,” she continued. “We made sure it was clear I was going to get better.”

Fiona Kingsley Boyer with her daughters. Photos courtesy of Fiona Kingsley Boyer. Art by Laura Whelan. 

How your outlook on life can change

Just trying to be a parent can be tough as well.

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“This may be the result of your body being exhausted from treatment or wanting to make sure they your child have an enjoyable time with you,” Turner said.

READ MORE: Southern Alberta mom uses art to help her cope with breast cancer

Some parenting styles also changes, he notes, and parents become more laid back. But it is still important for parents to discipline their child for inappropriate behaviour or breaking rules.

“Children may exhibit different behaviour to cope with their parent’s cancer such as anxiety, anger, or behavioural problems at school,” he explained.

“If you feel that you are struggling with finding effective behaviour management strategies, you should consider working with a licenced mental health professional or psychologist that can work with you and your family to help you cope with your diagnosis and improve your relationship with your child.”

Terri Mah’s outlook on life in general changed when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer in May, 2017. Mah had noticed pain on the left side of his body after his family moved from Saskatoon to Calgary that year.

Terri Mah and his family. Photo courtesy of Terri Mah. Art by Laura Whelan

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The 47-year-old told Global News he was already stressed about moving, helping his two kids adapt to a new city and being a caregiver for his father-in-law, who also had cancer.

“It was such a hard thing to deal with because we had brought my father-in-law here and one month before I got diagnosed he passed away,” he said.

“Taking my kids to the hospice and saying goodbye… it was such a hard thing for me. That’s all I could picture… laying there and saying goodbye to my kids.”

Mah is now cancer-free and his children played a huge part of his healing. They motivated him, kept him going and today, he realizes his outlook on parenting and is quite different.

“[Cancer] made me stop and think,’You know what? Family is the most important to me… I am going to stop take that time and spend it with them.”

Some parents feel guilty after their diagnosis

For others, there is a sense of guilt. A cancer diagnosis could mean extra hospital visits, chemotherapy or extended bed rest — all of which takes time away from a child.

“Talk with your family about expectations and create a new plan for how to enjoy time together,” Turner said.

“For example, maybe you can’t play outside with your child but instead can play a board game or read a book together. The most important thing is that you are maintaining a good connection and making memories.”

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For others, it becomes a loss of identity.

Mary Yusep, 27, is a single mom based in Edmonton. Yusep was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in fall 2018. Her son was five at that time and she didn’t tell him about the diagnosis at first.

Mary Yusep at the hospital. Photo courtesy of Mary Yusep. Art by Laura Whelan

There were some moments during her treatment where Yusep also had to be in isolation. She couldn’t speak with her son or even be in the same room with him.

“It was really heartbreaking,” she says. “It was a bit of a loss of identity. I have a cancer identity and it’s peeling away my motherhood.”

Today she has told her son the details of her diagnosis as well as her healing process. “He [would say], ‘mom don’t forget your medicine.’ It’s a journey that we’re on together.”

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Mary Yusep and her son. Photo: Mimi Siffledeen. Art by Laura Whelan

Parents need more support

Julie Michaud, 38, was first diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in September 2010. By May 2015, her cancer progressed to Stage 4.

“It returned in my sternum and lung,” she told Global News. “Last year it spread to my lungs and liver and a mass on my chest on top of remaining in my sternum.

“I am currently on my fifth round of chemotherapy.”

The Halifax-based woman was devastated. She was 40 weeks pregnant and felt a bump in her breastbone. “All I could think about was I would not see my three children grow up.”

Julie Michaud and her family. Photo courtesy of Julie Michaud. Art by Laura Whelan. 

She finds herself holding onto hope by continuing treatments, but she says the options for parents with terminal cancer get fewer and fewer.

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“We cannot find any immunotherapy options for me within Canada that I can apply for,” she explained.

She says cancer patients need more support, especially those who are parents.

“Treatments exhaust you, appointments take up a lot of time, you get hospitalized, you don’t get to be a normal parent,” she says.

“Fear that this will be the last birthday I see or the last holiday I’ll be a part of is constant, especially with the dwindling options for treatment.”

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Michaud says support is needed for partners, as well.

“We’ve had to rely on friends and family to make everything work,” she continued. “There’s no assistance for partners supporting cancer patients and their children, causing the possibility of burnout. We need more support available for parents with young children.”

For Kingsley Boyer, support also happens when we are honest about our cancer journey. She started documenting her story on social media for other parents to relate.

READ MORE: The stigma of more children after one is sick — Why some parents feel guilty

And growing up in a Sri Lankan and Tamil community, Kingsley Boyer also knows how hush-hush her own family would be if they found out about a family cancer diagnosis. For some communities, cancer is still seen as tucked away or a taboo.

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“We wanted to be as open as possible.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Men struggle to keep friends — and it’s hurting their mental health – National

by BBG Hub

Friendships are an important part of a healthy life, but research shows men struggle to keep them.

Men often have fewer close friends as they age, experts say, which directly impacts their mental well-being.

According to a 2016 survey by U.K.’s Movember organization, men lack “social connectedness.” The survey found one in 10 men couldn’t recall the last time they made contact with their friends, and older men were at greater risk of social isolation.

What’s more, over half of the men surveyed reported having two or less friends they would discuss “a serious topic” with, and 19 per cent of men over 55 said they lacked a close friend — period.

READ MORE: 28 per cent of men believe they could lose their job if they discuss mental health at work

“Men tend to not have deep friendships in the way that many women do, which denies them the opportunity to share deeply personal and emotionally sensitive information with others,” said John Ogrodniczuk, the director of the University of British Columbia’s psychotherapy program and founder of men’s depression resource HeadsUpGuy.

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“Because of this, many men can end up feeling lonely, even though they may indicate that they have friends in their lives. In fact, after surveying more than 5,000 men who had visited HeadsUpGuys, we learned that loneliness is one of the most frequent stressors in men’s lives.”

Why friends are important

A lack of close friendships can negatively affect not only men’s mental health, but overall well-being, says Dr. Ari Zaretsky, the psychiatrist-in-chief at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

“Having a social support system has been shown to promote resilience, not only for mental illness but even for physical illness,” Zaretsky said.

How to help take care of your mental health while in school

How to help take care of your mental health while in school

Research also shows that social interactions have a positive effect on life satisfaction.

A recent study on the role of friends found that good-quality friendships help people feel supported. When people have less frequent social interactions, researchers found, they reported lower life satisfaction.

Joshua Beharry, a B.C.-based mental health advocate and project coordinator at HeadsUpGuys, experienced this first-hand. When he was dealing with severe depression 10 years ago, he hid his symptoms from his friends.

He believed he could handle his mental health issues on his own, even as his condition worsened.

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“This led me to basically waiting until I was so sick that I couldn’t hide my symptoms anymore,” Beharry said.

Beharry says his friends realized something was wrong when he kept cancelling plans and became increasingly withdrawn. Once he admitted he was struggling with depression and sought treatment, his friends were supportive.

READ MORE: Cancer can severely damage your mental health. Why don’t we talk about it?

“Instead of having to continue to hide how sick I was from my friends, I could finally be open with them,” Beharry said.

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“They were much more supportive and understanding than I had expected, asking lots of questions about what I was going through and what they could do to help.”

This is not surprising to Zaretsky, who says social support is key to dealing with mental health issues like depression.

While Zaretsky believes in a comprehensive approach when it comes to tackling mental health issues — which can include medication and psychotherapy — friendships are an integral part of the recovery process.

Focusing on men’s mental health

Focusing on men’s mental health

And you don’t need a large group of friends to notice the benefits, Ogrodniczuk points out. The amount of friends one has is less important than the quality of those friendships.

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“Strength is demonstrated by actually allowing yourself to be vulnerable,” Ogrodniczuk said.

“It’s often a very scary thing for many men, but when they actually do open up to others, they find that they deepen their relationships and have a stronger sense of self.”

Why men may have fewer friends

There are a few reasons men may have fewer friendships — especially as they age.

When men get into romantic partnerships, they often become inclined to lean on their spouse for emotional support and therefore put less emphasis on maintaining outside friendships.

READ MORE: Vast majority of workers with mental health issues keep it secret from their boss

“A lot of guys recognize that friendships are important, but don’t make the maintenance of such relationships a priority in their lives, instead prioritizing other things like work and family,” Ogrodniczuk said.

Men may also rely on their partner’s social network, meaning should a separation occur, they are left with fewer close relationships.

Notions of masculinity are also factors. Experts say it’s common for men to view mental health struggles as signs of weakness, and avoid talking to friends about problems as a result.

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Ogrodniczuk says the influence of “masculine socialization” can cause men to doubt what is “permissible” in friendships. For example, men may question whether or not it is OK to tell a friend they need help or open up to them about something serious.

This can lead to more surface-level friendships or acquaintances rather than deep, meaningful friendships. Casual friendships may be harder to maintain, too, experts say.

New study says more men are working themselves to an early grave

New study says more men are working themselves to an early grave

Zaretsky echoes this, adding when men do speak about their issues with others, they’re often self-conscious.

“They sometimes do it reluctantly,” he explained, “and I think that they have difficulty many times with talking about feelings and thoughts.”

How can men improve friendships

So how can more men move past these factors and develop meaningful connections? In order to improve and maintain friendships, men need to recognize the importance of close relationships and make them a priority, Ogrodniczuk said.

If a man is struggling with mental health issues, Ogrodniczuk suggests starting a conversation with someone they trust.

READ MORE: ‘It feels like failure’: Why Canadian workplaces should offer stress leave

“Sometimes it’s as simple as saying something like, ‘I’ve been feeling like sh-t lately and I’m not really sure what’s going on. Can I run some things by you to get your take on them?’” he said.

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Plus, Beharry says stigma around mental health issues is slowly eroding, and there’s less taboo around talking about struggles today than there was 10 years ago.

“There are a lot of male celebrities and athletes who have spoken out about depression as well, which I think goes a long way in opening up important conversations and helping to shed ideas that associate mental health issues with weakness,” he added.

Beharry now understands the benefit of opening up.

Becoming a dad can take a toll on men’s mental health

Becoming a dad can take a toll on men’s mental health

He says since being upfront about his mental health struggles, more men have reached out to him with similar experiences, too.

“Some people are better at listening and others are better at helping you out with tasks and keeping up with life,” he said.

“If the first person you talk to doesn’t really help, don’t get discouraged and shut down more; keep reaching out and building supports.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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