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New Treatment Option for Crohn’s Disease in Kids

Leah Sarich | posted Thursday, Sep 26th, 2013

About ten thousand Canadian children are living with Crohn’s disease. In fact, Canada has one of the highest rates of Crohn’s disease in the world.

But the good news is there is a new treatment option for kids with the disease. So first off, what is Crohn’s disease? I spoke with the Director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinic at the University of Calgary, Dr. Remo Panaccione, who says Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract which can be anwywhere from “gums to bums.”

There is no cure for it and symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea and in children, Crohn’s disease is a leading cause of delayed growth development and delayed puberty.

There are several treatment options for Crohn’s depending on the severity of the disease and where the disease occurs. Usually patients start on non-specific anti-inflammatory drugs, then prednisone – a steroid, then immuno-suppressant therapy and then the new class of medications called biologics. Surgery is also used to treat crohn’s. About 80 percent of patients will have surgery at some point to remove affected tissue.

This new medication is in the biologic family. It’s called Humira. Dr. Panaccione says the medication is a great option for pediatric patients because it’s effective, safe and easy to use. The other biologic approved for Crohn’s has to be administered in a hospital. So kids have to go in for a day once a month. By contrast, Humira is a self-injectable medication. Similar to an Epipen, patients inject themselves every two weeks.

Humira does come with side effects. It supresses the immune system so patients are more at risk of infection. Dr. Panaccione says 10 percent of patients will get an infection each year. But the benefits of this medication far outweigh the risks.

Humira is also expensive. Each injection costs one thousand dollars and Alberta Health does not pay for it yet. However, most extended health are plans do cover the medication and the drug company does supply it to certain patients as well.

For more information about Crohn’s disease and the treatment options visit the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada website.

Living a Balanced Life

Leah Sarich | posted Wednesday, Sep 25th, 2013

Many of us are challenged by multiple roles in our lives. Wife, mother, employee and more. And it can be very hard to find balance in our lives.

But a new course at the Women’s Health Centre at the Foothills Medical Centre can help us figure out how to do that. It’s called “Living a Balanced Life: Healthy Mind and Healthy Relationships.”  The course is led my Registered Psychologist Milena Meneghetti. She says research shows there are four pillars to leading a balanced life:

– Knowing your strengths

– Having a sense of meaning and purpose

– Learning how to overcome challenges

– Establishing heathy relationships

So why is leading a balanced life so important? Milena says often when we start to feel overwhelmed or depressed it’s because we are focusing on one area of our lives too much, to the detriment of another area. For example, if you are working way too much then you have less time for the other areas of your life that give you peace or support.

Milena says she’s all about helping people make real change in their lives, and she really encourages women to come to the workshop to get some easily applicable real-life strategies to improve their lives.

The workshop is on Thursday September 26th. It’s only 25 dollars.

For more information on this class and all the other amazing courses the Women’s Health Resources offers visit their website.


Allerject and Anaphylaxis

Leah Sarich | posted Thursday, Sep 19th, 2013

It’s a great time to talk about anaphylaxis and food allergies because with children now back in school, they’re eating out of the home more often. Allergist, Dr. Joel Doctor, says anyone with a severe food allergy or anaphylaxis must carry their epinephrine auto-injectors with them at all times. He says studies show those with anaphylaxis will need their injector within 5 years. So it’s not a question of ‘if’ they’ll need their auto-injector but “when.”

In Canada there are two options. The Epipen which has been around for years is an excellent option that delivers a single dose of epinephrine, the “antidote” to anaphylaxsis, that opens up the airways. But now in Canada there is another autoinjector available called Allerject. This works the same as the Epipen delivering that single dose of medication, but it’s smaller and arguably more portable. It also has voice prompts which walk people through using the device.

Dr. Doctor does not care which device people use, he just wants to make sure that those with anaphylaxis have their devices with them at all times, that they know how to use then, and that they’re prepared to use them. He says let’s remember that by definition, anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. It causes swelling of the hands and face, hives, stomach upset and closing of the airways. So it’s very serious and requires medication right away. In fact, once patients have used their device, they still need to seek medical attention.

For more information about anaphylaxis and the treatment options visit the Anaphylaxis Canada website.

Review: iPhone 5s

MIke Yawney | posted Tuesday, Sep 17th, 2013

iphone 5s_3

Over the past week I’ve been bombarded with questions about the iPhone 5s. What are the new features? Is it worth upgrading to if I already own an iPhone 5? Many are curious about Apple’s latest device, but aren’t certain if it’s worth upgrading to. I’ve spent the past 7 days using the device.  Is it nice? You bet! Are the new features cool? There’s no doubt about it! Is it worth upgrading to? Well…that depends.


Ovarian Cancer

Leah Sarich | posted Tuesday, Sep 17th, 2013

Ovarian Cancer is the most serious of all the gynecological cancers. There is no screening for this cancer and the symptoms of the disease are very vague. That’s why, for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, it’s so important to help women understand the symptoms of the disease.

Gynecologic Oncologist Dr. Gregg Nelson from the Tom Baker Cancer Centre says the symptoms for ovarian cancer are often misdiagnosed as gastrointestinal problems. The key characteristic with this type of cancer is symptoms that persist. Dr. Nelson says patients often talk about starting a new exercise regimen and starting to lose weight, except for around their stomach or pelvic area. Patients may also find they’re feeling full sooner when they’re eating. Other symptoms include frequent urination, bloating and gas.

Karen Craik who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Septemeber 2000, says she had these symptoms and really had to encourage her doctor to investigate her symptoms further. Good thing she did. She was eventually diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer, an advanced stage. She had a full hysterectomy and did 6 rounds of chemo. But she survived and has not had a recurrence but she lives with the fear everyday.

Karen and Dr. Nelson both encourage women to know their bodies, and be their own advocate. Make sure you are getting the answers you need from your health care professional. And here’s the motivation… if ovarian cancer is caught early the survival rate is excellent …90 to 95 percent, compared with the usual 20 to 25 percent.

Please visit this website to more fully understand the symptoms of ovarian cancer. It’s your best defence.


Breast Cancer Supportive Care

Leah Sarich | posted Thursday, Sep 12th, 2013

Hearing the words “you have breast cancer” is terrifying. And yet, 65 Canadian women hear those words every day. But in Calgary, the Breast Cancer Supportive Care Foundation or the BCSC is there to work alongside the surgeons and oncologists to help each patient and her family along the breast cancer journey. And the best part? It’s free.

BCSC is a medical organization that helps women from diagnosis to recovery and beyond to live well and full lives. Medical Director Dr. Ardythe Taylor says they have doctors, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists and dieitians all there to empower patients and help them make informed decisions about their treatment options and their life following treatment. They want to help patients medically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Breast cancer survivor Linda Day accessed BCSC after her diagnosis in 2002. She says BCSC “saved her life.” She explains it wasn’t about the medicine, for her it was about having a place to come to talk about things she couldn’t even talk to her husband about. Day had a mastectomy and needed counsel on her self-confidence, her self-esteem and her femininity.

Dr. Taylor says most family doctors refer their patients to BCSC at the same time they refer their patients to the surgeons. But patients can also make the call themselves without a formal referral. All costs are covered so there is no expense to the patient.

BCSC has their big annual fundraiser Saturday September 21. It’s called Fashion for Compassion.
For more information about the event and the Foundation, visit Breast Cancer Supportive Care Foundation.

Kids Eye Health

Leah Sarich | posted Tuesday, Sep 10th, 2013

It’s the time of year when we want our children to have a good experience at school. And part of that means being able to see properly.

Eighty percent of learning is visual, so if your child can’t see properly, they’re not learning properly. Also, up to 60 percent of children diagnosed with a learning disorder have undetected vision problems.

Dr. Diana Monea an optometrist who’s been checking kid’s eyes for 35 years, says why not give your child the best chance to succeed…both academically and socially. Not doing well in school can lead to low self esteem. So, along with those new school books and backpacks, make sure they get an eye exam. And the best part? Eye health exams are free for children in Alberta! So there’s no reason not to get their eyes checked.

Dr. Monea says these check-ups are not just about seeing properly, they’re also about the health of the eye and the body. In children, Dr. Monea says optometrists worry about early cataracts, that if not caught early enough can prevent the normal growth of visual cells and about tumours which if not detected by the age of 2 can be life threatening. This is why optometrists want a child’s first visit to be at 6 months, then again at 3 and annually after that.

The other wonderful program in Alberta is the Eye See Eye Learn initiative. This program means every child in Alberta with an Alberta Health Care Number can receive a free pair of eyeglasses if they’re in kindgergarten, regardless of income.

For more information, visit


The September Spike

Leah Sarich | posted Friday, Sep 6th, 2013

It’s an exciting time for children as they head back to school. But for those with asthma, this can be the most challenging time to manage their illness. It’s called the September Spike… a jump in the number of asthma-related visits to the emergency room.

Dr. Mary Noseworthy, the Asthma Director at the Alberta Children’s Hospital says the spike occurs around the 17th of September or about two or three weeks into the school year. It’s the perfect storm for asthma patients. Children are once again in crowded classrooms as the cold and flu season starts. Schools are also notorious for triggering allergies and then asthma. In addition, schools are often bad for mould, particularly this year after the flooding, which can trigger asthma.

Dr. Noseworthy says parents should be encouraging their children to get back on their preventative asthma medications right now whether or not they are symptomatic. They should also be reviewing their asthma action plan that will help them control their disease.

The action plan really works. Nurse Asthma Educator Dora Lougheed says over the past 10 years, since the implementation of the asthma action plans, visits to the ER for asthma have dropped dramatically. Ten years ago, asthma was the number one or two reason for an ER visit, that number has now dropped to number 9… despite an increase in the number of children with asthma!

For more information about the asthma action plan visit: I Can Control Asthma