Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Will Quebec Finally See the Truth About Asbestos?

The following post first appeared on the Canadian Meso blog, which is a part of the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network's recent project committed to providing survivors, patients, families, and the wider public with information and news about asbestos and mesothelioma. 

In April 2013, CBC News published an article about the possible end of Quebec’s asbestos promotion policy. After 11 years of encouraging local construction companies to use asbestos products, the Natural Resources Minister Martine Ouellette finally admitted that there seems to be no safe way to use the fibres. Nearly 40 years after Sweden enacted the world’s first chrysotile asbestos ban, could Canada be finally following suit?

Today, Canada is one of the few industrialized nations that doesn’t ban the known carcinogen. (The United States is another.) In fact, Quebec has been home to a highly profitable chrysotile mining industry since 1879.

Asbestos fibres
Asbestos Use

For years, Canada has been one of the largest exporters of asbestos. Developing nations are especially willing to buy the inexpensive fibres, which they use to add a fireproofing element to many common building products. (These nations consume about 90 percent of Quebec’s asbestos.)

However, Quebec does use plenty of its own chrysotile. A recent survey found asbestos in at least 180 health care sites, including long-term care homes. Abatement is now underway.

Until recently, however, governing bodies insisted that chrysotile asbestos was safe to handle. Lobbyists – often funded by The Chrysotile Institute – argued that the fibres didn’t share the cancer-causing properties of other forms of asbestos, like serpentine. These lobbyists even managed to keep asbestos off the U.N.’s list of toxic substances.

Asbestos Promotion

In the past, the Parti Québécois promoted its use, saying, “Unequivocally, they believe the future of asbestos and asbestos products can play a leading role in many specific sectors.” They suggested that encapsulated asbestos products (such as bricks) were not harmful at all, because the individual fibres weren’t likely to make it to the surface, where they could be inhaled. However, this promotion failed to consider the repercussions that could occur as those products aged naturally or were damaged by construction.

Now, however, the parties in power are starting to consider such factors.

“I don't think we're there anymore,” Natural Resources Minister Martine Ouellet said, when asked about their policies of asbestos promotion.

As a first step, the Pauline Marlois-led government rescinded the previous government’s offer of a $50 million incentive to re-launch production at Quebec’s Jeffrey Asbestos Mine. And while they’ve stopped endorsing production, there’s still plenty of room to improve. Perhaps a complete ban of asbestos will be next.  

Faith Franz writes for The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com. She encourages patients to consider the benefits of alternative medicine.

CBC News. (5 April 2013). Quebec’s Asbestos Promotion Policy May be Ending. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.canewscanadamontrealstory20130405quebec-asbestos-policy-jeffery-mine-chrysotile-export.html
CBC News. (26 March 2013). Asbestos in at least 180 Quebec Health Care Sites. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.canewshealthstory20130326quebec-asbestos-health-care-contamination.html

Thursday, 13 June 2013

CCSN’s fourth advocacy webinar was on Wednesday, June 12!

Webinar: How To Use Social Media To Influence Decision-Makers

The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network is offering a series of eight advocacy webinars designed to give you information to help you become an effective advocate.

These webinars are supported by Novartis Canada, and each focuses on a different aspect of the advocacy process.

Our most recent webinar was entitled How to use social media to influence decision-makers. The webinar was co-hosted by Joanne Koskie, Vice President, and and Beth Daniher of Cohn & Wolfe, and Megan Boyle, Consultant, of Global Public Affairs.  

The social media webinar provided:
•    An overview of key social media tools that can be used in advocacy.
•    An introduction to how social media can be used to raise awareness for your issue among your networks.
•    How to use social media to raise and sustain interest in your issue among media and government.

Past Webinars

All four webinars so far have been archived:
•    Webinar #1: How the healthcare system in Canada is structured, March 27, 2013
•    Webinar #2: What you should know about the drug approval process in Canada, April 17, 2013
•    Webinar #3: Advocacy Overview: Shaping the Advocacy Agenda, May 22, 2013
•    Webinar #4: How to use Social Media to Influence Decision-makers, June 12, 2013 

You can access them here!

Upcoming Webinars

Please note that we will be holding four more webinars, beginning again in September. 

How to register for upcoming webinars:

To participate, you will need to register by first sending an email to jmanthorne@survivornet.ca. CCSN will then email you the link for participating in the webinar and login instructions.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Sunglasses aren't just a fashion statement, they serve an important purpose too

One of the most widely iconic styles of summer is a chic pair of sunglasses, but they are not all created equal. The Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA) wants to remind Canadians that the eyes are at just as high a risk for sun damage and cancer as the rest of the body's other sun-exposed areas.

"Our eyes are encompassed by some of the thinnest and most delicate skin anywhere on the body, making it easily prone to damage," says Dr. Gordon Searles, CDA President. "I know first-hand the detrimental effects of what too much UV radiation can mean to our eyes, as I lost my left eye as a result of an invasive basal cell carcinoma a number of years ago."
It is estimated that 81,700 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and 6,000 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in 2013. Of these 6,000 new cases of melanoma it is expected that 1,050 people will die. Making it even more important to look and see whether sunglasses have a "UV 400" rating, meaning they block out 100% of UVA and UVB rays. You don't necessarily have to spend much to get this kind of protection, but it is a matter of diligence to look into what you are buying and whether it meets the requirements to provide full ocular safety against the detrimental effects of UV radiation.
"The eyelids are very prone to develop skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Actinic keratosis, a pre-cancer that has a tendency of forming in the corners of the eyelids, can develop into squamous cell malignancies," says Dr. Paul Rafuse, President of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society, the Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
Though not as common, melanoma can occur in the eye and according to the American Ocular Melanoma Foundation there are approximately 2,500 new cases of ocular melanoma are diagnosed each year in the United States. So as you prepare to head out to the beach to play volley ball or for a picnic in the park, remember to grab those snazzy UVA/UVB protectant sunglasses that took so long to pick out because they won't do any good if you leave them at home.
About Sun Awareness Week 
The Canadian Dermatology Association has organized a nationwide Sun Awareness Week since 1989. The purpose of the annual campaign is to increase the awareness of Canadians about the harmful effects of UV radiation and the ways to protect the skin from UV exposure, in order to decrease the incidence of skin cancer in Canada. During National Sun Awareness Week, June 3 - 9, 2013, dermatologists will volunteer at free public skin cancer screenings and other community events. For more information, please visit www.dermatology.ca.
About CDA 
The Canadian Dermatology Association, founded in 1925, represents Canadian dermatologists. The association strives to provide easy access to the largest, most reliable source of medical knowledge on dermatology. CDA exists to advance the science and art of medicine and surgery related to the care of the skin, hair and nails; provide continuing professional development for its members; support and advance patient care; provide public education on sun protection and other aspects of skin health; and promote a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. By doing so, CDA informs and empowers both medical professionals and the Canadian public.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Prostate and Breast Cancer Survivors Unite Over Shared Health Concern

June 2, 2013 - Today, prostate and breast cancer survivors from across the country are marking National Cancer Survivors Day by shining a light on the importance of bone health in advanced cancer, and encouraging other survivors to talk to their physicians about protecting their bones.
"It's not often that breast and prostate survivors come together, but when they do, you can bet there's an important message to deliver," said Jackie Manthorne, President and CEO, Canadian Cancer Survivors Network. "Many people don't realize that the two most prevalent cancers affecting Canadian women and men today share a very common risk, and that is the disease may spread to the bone, causing serious complications. We are urging patients and survivors to be aware, know the risks, and speak to their doctors about their bone health."
Studies show that 65 to 75 per cent of women with advanced breast cancer may experience the spread of cancer from site where the cancer started (primary site) to the bone, known as bone metastases.1 For men with prostate cancer, this figure rises to 90 per cent.2 When this happens, serious bone complications can occur, including broken bones and spinal cord compression, which may lead to severe pain, disability, hospitalization, and even death. Although a rapidly rising PSA is a sign of risk of bone metastases in prostate cancer patients, many men do not have bone metastases diagnosed until they are symptomatic. In breast and prostate cancers, it is often bone pain that is the signal of the onset of bone metastases and leads to a bone scan.3
"As an oncologist, I encourage all breast and prostate patients to maintain an ongoing dialogue about their bone health with their doctors," said Dr. Sandy Sehdev, medical oncologist, William Osler Health Centre. "While the bone is one of the most common places for cancer to spread in advanced cases of breast and prostate cancer, the good news is that bone-targeted treatment can help prevent debilitating complications."
"For me, it was pain in my sternum that led me to my doctor. I was shocked to learn that, not only did I have breast cancer, but it had spread to the bone and caused my sternum to crack," said Judy McCracken, breast cancer survivor from Ontario. "Thankfully, I benefited from the advice of my doctor and a treatment that protected my bones from further complications. That's why I'm encouraging all women and men, who, like me, have unexplained bone pain or suspect they have bone metastases to speak to their doctor."
Unique series of artwork brings issue to forefront
To bring this issue to light, men and women's stories of their cancer journeys will be shared through one-of-a-kind works of art created by local artists with a connection to cancer. These works were unveiled on the first Sunday in June, National Cancer Survivors Day, which is an annual "celebration of life" for cancer survivors, their friends and families.
"I have many friends for whom their prostate cancer has spread to the bone, and so I've seen, first-hand, how devastating bone complications, like fractures or spinal cord compression, can be. The pain from bone metastases can be excruciating," said Stewart Campbell, prostate cancer fighter and chair of the Warriors group of Prostate Cancer Canada Network Calgary. "That is why I've shared my story, and am hoping that through these works of art others will be moved make choices that will protect their bones and their health."
Five works of art have been created which depict the stories of men and women who have survived, or are still battling, breast or prostate cancer. The art represents stories of men and women from British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, and each piece was created by a local artist from each respective province. Many of the men and women represented in this artwork have experienced bone metastases themselves, and others have a connection to bone metastases. In some of the works, a man and a woman's stories have been woven together by the artist.
Additional information about the program, including visuals of the artwork and videos of the survivors, is available online at: bonehealthincancer.ca.
About Bone Complications
Bone pain dominates the daily lives of people with advanced cancer and can severely affect a patient's quality of life.4 Up to two-thirds of people with bone metastases experience debilitating bone pain.5
Once the cancer has spread to the bone, complications can occur, such as broken bones, spinal cord compression as well as the need for radiation and/or surgery. These are known as bone complications.  In people with advanced cancer, bone complications can greatly impair mobility and is associated with increased illness and death.6,7