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Want to reduce your chances of cervical cancer? Here’s what you need to know – Global News



Karla Van Kessel had always gone for regular Pap tests and felt that she was well-informed about her reproductive health.

That’s why it came as a shock for the London, Ont., woman, who’s in her early 40s, when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 cervical cancer in 2018. 

“I thought it was impossible for me to be diagnosed with this type of disease, because I was so compliant with Pap smears,” she said. “I did everything right and still ended up in a really terrible situation.”

26-year-old Ontario woman encouraging cervical cancer screening

In Canada, 1,350 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2019 and an estimated 410 will die from it, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. 

Cervical cancer is the most preventable cancer in Canada, according to Shawn Chirrey, a senior analyst at the organization. 

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Their data shows that routine screenings can catch precancerous lesions and treat them before they turn into cervical cancer. 

Incidents of cervical cancer decreased by 3.3 per cent per year from 2010 to 2015, which the organization attributes to increased cancer screenings and the HPV vaccine, which lowers the risk of cervical cancer, as the virus can cause it. 

But there are gaps in accessing these tests and understanding how frequently to get them, along with issues like practitioner error, which is what impacted Van Kessel’s diagnosis, she told Global News. She also spoke to the CBC last year about why doctors missed cancer signs in her Pap tests. 

A Pap test she had was abnormal and she should have been referred to a doctor, but she wasn’t, which delayed her diagnosis by six to eight months, she said.

“It was quite a lot because it had spread quite a bit in that time,” she said, adding she was able to review her own records to see that it been noted that she needed a biopsy immediately, but she was never sent for one. 

HPV vaccine could soon achieve ‘substantial reductions’ in cervical cancer cases, study says

In the months prior to her diagnosis, she had what are known symptoms of cervical cancer like abnormal bleeding between periods and pain during intercourse. Signs also include pelvic pain, painful urination and bleeding after menopause. But Van Kessel was unaware those symptoms were associated with cancer, and she thought her Pap tests were fine.

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She advises those with female reproductive organs to keep up to date with their Pap tests, ensure they have gotten the HPV vaccination, and access their test results.

“Women have always had a challenge being heard in health care and have even more challenges advocating for themselves, because women tend to be quite compliant and don’t want to raise a fuss,” she said. “I would tell women to take charge of their health.”

Karla Van Kessel pictured with her family. Photo by Lindsay Davis.

Karla Van Kessel pictured with her family. Photo by Lindsay Davis.

Lindsay Davis

Work closely with your family doctor and get your hands on your results, she explained. 

Van Kessel is now undergoing experimental treatment in the U.S. and is hopeful it will allow her to beat the disease and continue life with her husband and two young sons. 

Black woman at higher risk of dying from cervical cancer

Black woman at higher risk of dying from cervical cancer

More than 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases for women aged 18-39 in Canada were caught at Stage 1 due to detection from cancer screening programs and tests like Pap smears, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. 

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But in addition to access to information about screenings and tests, access to doctors and cost can also be factors. In Ontario, HPV tests cost around $100 and groups like Cancer Care Ontario are working to have the test covered by OHIP.

For those who didn’t receive the HPV vaccine in school, it can cost between $300 and $500 depending on if you have private health care coverage. 

Access to cancer screenings for marginalized people, including Indigenous people, is also an issue. Cancer Care Ontario is working to address issues like lack of access to care, culturally competent health care providers and providers in general.

Black women may be under-screened for cervical and breast cancer and there is a lack of health research on this issue, according to a literature review from the University of Toronto. This could lead to worse outcomes from these diseases, according to a previous report by Global News.

Another barrier to receiving care around cervical cancer prevention is the stigma associated with this form of cancer, as it’s related to women’s sexual health, said Denise Corbin, an early detection co-ordinator at the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency.

Corbin’s role involves engaging with the public in Saskatchewan to better inform them about cervical cancer screenings and early detection.

“It’s a topic that is touchy to talk about because what causes cervical cancer in nearly all cases is the HPV virus,” she said. “So seeing as HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, there’s not a lot of people that want to talk about it.” 

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Most people who are sexually active will have an HPV infection at some point in their life. In most cases, it will go away, but sometimes it will not, which can lead to cancer, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

HPV test should replace Pap tests for cervical cancer screening: study

HPV test should replace Pap tests for cervical cancer screening: study

Two strains of HPV, HPV16 and HPV18, can cause cells to change or become abnormal, which causes 70 per cent of all cervical cancers, according to the organization. But men are also encouraged to receive the vaccine as HPV also causes anal, penile, mouth and throat cancers.

There is shame associated with women talking about being sexually active and their bodies, and many aren’t comfortable doing so with a male doctor, said Corbin.

HPV immunization program in B.C. cuts rates of pre-cancer in women, study says

“You’ve got stigmas of, ‘I’m not supposed to talk about it’ or ‘I’m afraid to talk about it,’” said Corbin. “And a lot of people think, ‘Oh, I had a Pap test, I’m good.’”

Getting the HPV vaccine along with cancer screenings is important to do along with a Pap test and monitoring your body for unusual symptoms, she said.

Recommendations for when to get a Pap test, which screens for cervical cancer, are to start at age 21 and get one every three years after that. However, in 2013, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published new guidelines that recommend tests start at age 25.

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The main goal of the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency’s outreach program is to help women be comfortable with their own bodies and talk about their health, so they feel more inclined to get tested, said Corbin.

“We just sit down and talk about some of the fears … what they’re feeling anxious about,” she said, adding that the Pap test is invasive and uncomfortable, which can also be a deterrent.

Free HPV vaccination in schools has made a big difference in tackling cervical cancer rates, said Dr. Sarah Ferguson, a gynecologic-oncologist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto. 

But accessibility continues to be an issue in health care, as costs continue to be barriers to care, said Ferguson. 

“We need to make sure that women are being screened and to maximize our HPV vaccinations,” she said, adding she is pleased to see rates of cervical cancer decrease in the country.

“We can’t be complacent, but it is a success story,” she said. “It’s important to… advocate for ourselves to make sure our screenings are done every three years to prevent cancer.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Helping people living with dementia ‘flourish’ through dance



Dr. Pia Kontos, a Senior Scientist at UHN’s KITE Research Institute, is co-leading an initiative to help people living with dementia flourish. (Photo: Tim Fraser/UHN KITE Studio)

Dr. Pia Kontos believes in the power of the arts to support people to live well with dementia.

The Senior Scientist at UHN’s KITE Research Institute focuses on challenging policies and practices that discriminate against those living with dementia and developing and evaluating arts-based and digital knowledge translation initiatives to reduce stigma, improve social inclusion and quality of care for them.

“The predominant assumption is people living with dementia don’t have the capacity to be creative,” says Dr. Kontos, who is also a professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. “However, we know through extensive research that dance…powerfully supports people living with dementia to be creative and to flourish.

“And flourishing should be a goal that we all have.”

Dr. Kontos co-produced in 2023 Dancer Not Dementia, a short documentary film. It captured the power of a dance program for seniors – Sharing Dance Older Adults (SDOA) – to challenge the stigma associated with dementia, support social inclusion and enrich lives. It’s told through the eyes of residents and staff at Alexis Lodge Dementia Care Residence and Cedarhurst Dementia Care Home in Toronto.

SDOA was jointly developed by Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) and Baycrest Centre in 2013 for older adults with a range of physical and cognitive abilities, including dementia.

Typically, dance programs in dementia care settings are provided as a therapeutic intervention for older adults. However, SDOA’s goal is to provide a creative outlet for participants and opportunities for social interaction with other people living with dementia, staff and loved ones.

Now, Dr. Kontos will look to incorporate traditions from marginalized communities into SDOA through a $750,000 Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Aging Implementation Science Team Grant. Dr. Rachel Bar, Director of Research and Health at NBS is co-principal applicant for the grant.

This CIHR funding supports projects that evaluate the effectiveness of existing programs, services and models of care that show promise for those impacted by cognitive impairment and dementia. An important focus is improving equitable and inclusive access to care and support.

The three-year grant to Drs. Kontos and Bar will support SDOA efforts to partner with organizations in Black, Chinese and South Asian communities to integrate their cultural practices into its programming.

Training dancers from these communities to teach the adapted program is central to these partnerships.

“People living with dementia from marginalized communities rarely have their traditions honoured with art and leisure programming,” says Dr. Kontos.

“It’s important to align dance programs with the cultural traditions of these communities. Otherwise, the music and movements wouldn’t reflect the experiences of ethno-culturally diverse populations, and the programs wouldn’t be inclusive.

“We wouldn’t be supporting their capacity to be creative or to be in relationships with others through dance. We would be falling short.”

SDOA has already partnered with Alexis Lodge, Alzheimer Society of Canada, Baycrest, NBS, Indus Community Services, Social Planning Council of Ottawa, and Yee Hong for this initiative.


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CDC: Heat may have contributed to four human cases of bird flu in Colorado



Credit: Alexas Fotos from Pexels

Heat probably played a role in at least four cases of bird flu in poultry workers confirmed by U.S. health officials Sunday—the first cases in poultry workers in two years.

Sweltering temperatures in Colorado rose to at least 104 degrees, which is suspected to have contributed to the human cases, according to Dr. Nirav Shah, principal deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The barns where poultry workers were culling chickens were “no doubt even hotter,” Shah said during a press conference on the most recent outbreak of bird flu in humans.

The new cases bring the U.S. total to at least nine cases since the first human case of the current outbreak was detected in 2022, also in a Colorado poultry worker. Eight of the nine were reported this year.

The workers were separating chickens that were going to be killed to stop the spread of the virus. The fans may also have contributed to the human infections because, while helping to keep the environment cooler, they “also spread things like feathers around which are known to carry the virus,” Shah added.

The large and strong fans also make it difficult for protective goggles and face masks to stay in place, he said.

About 60 workers at the poultry farm showed symptoms of illness and were tested for bird flu. Four tested positive for bird flu and one additional presumptive case is awaiting confirmation.

The illnesses were relatively mild, with symptoms including conjunctivitis and common respiratory infection symptoms like fever, chills, coughing, and runny nose, according to the CDC. None were hospitalized, officials said. The other U.S. cases have also been mild.

Officials said they are bracing for more cases.

The CDC says the risk to the general public remains low and the health agency is not recommending livestock workers be vaccinated against bird flu given the “mild symptoms noted thus far,” Shah said.

An initial analysis of virus samples from an infected poultry worker does not show any changes in the virus that would make it easier to spread among people and there is no evidence of person-to-person spread in the U.S.

“It’s important to note that this assessment is based on what we know today and may change,” Shah said. “CDC is constantly looking for key changes that may alter our risk assessment of the virus, such as the severity of illness that it causes, the ease with which it can transmit to humans or changes to its genetic fingerprint.”

At the request of Colorado’s officials, the CDC sent a 10-person team to Colorado to help the state manage the bird flu outbreak in humans and poultry. The team included epidemiologists, veterinarians, clinicians and industrial hygienists.

Shah also noted it was a bilingual team. Overall in the U.S., it is estimated about half of farm workers are Latino.

An analysis of the virus from an infected worker indicates that the infections at the chicken farm are “largely the same” as the strain detected in dairy herds in Colorado and other states, according to Shah. But an investigation is ongoing to determine exactly how the outbreak is spreading between wild birds, chicken and cattle.

Since 2022, a highly contagious strain of bird flu has spread across the U.S. at an unprecedented rate.

Georgia’s powerhouse poultry industry, which produces more broiler chickens than any other in the country, has mostly dodged the kinds of major outbreaks that have resulted in the deaths of more 90 million birds in commercial and backyard poultry flocks in the U.S.

About 1.8 million chickens will be killed at the Colorado poultry farm after these latest bird flu cases were detected.

In late 2023, ducks at a commercial breeding farm in Sumter County, Georgia, tested positive for H5N1. This year, in March, the virus made a jump to a mammal species that surprised many scientists: cows.

With a significant dairy industry, plus even larger beef and poultry interests, the potential arrival of the virus here threatens Georgia’s economy and the health of residents.

As of Monday, the H5N1 virus has been confirmed in 158 dairy herds in 13 states, according U.S. Agriculture Department.

So far in Georgia, there have been no bird flu cases in cattle, and there have been no human cases.

Since the unprecedented spread of H5N1 in poultry in 2022, the Georgia Department of Public Health has quietly monitored 132 people for signs of the virus, according to DPH spokeswoman Nancy Nydam. Those tracked were either first responders to one of the state’s few virus outbreaks in backyard and commercial poultry flocks or farmworkers where the infections occurred. Of those monitored, fewer than 10 people were tested for H5N1 and none came back positive.

Since the virus was discovered in cattle, a small number of first responders from Georgia who went to other states to help with investigations—fewer than 15—have also been monitored for signs of illness.

Federal officials said Tuesday they still believe they can eliminate the bird flu virus from , even as the number of herds infected continues to grow. The latest state to recently report infected dairy cattle was Oklahoma. North Carolina is the only state adjacent to Georgia to report an infected dairy herd.

Eric Deeble, acting senior adviser for the H5N1 response at the USDA, said investigations show the is spreading among cattle through cattle moved from one herd to another and the shared use of milking equipment. It can be contained through enhanced biosecurity measures such as thoroughly cleaning milking “parlors” and equipment, separating sick cows, and having dairy workers wear protective equipment.

Deeble also noted USDA scientists are also working with partners to develop a cattle-specific H5N1 vaccine—a process requires many steps and will take time.

The USDA is also exploring the possibility of developing a poultry vaccine as the number of cases soar, and outbreaks lead to the slaughter of millions of farmed birds. But USDA and industry stakeholders point to challenges that would hinder a vaccination program.

The biggest sticking point is around trade.

Mike Giles, president of the Georgia Poultry Federation, said mass vaccination would be impractical for several reasons, including the fact that the industry would lose its lucrative export market: The United States and many of its trade partners restrict the import of products or eggs from countries affected by the highly pathogenic strain or flocks that have been vaccinated against it.

“(Bird flu) has been, from an animal health standpoint, our top concern,” Giles said. “The challenge, and I think the industry has responded to it well, has been maintaining the state of preparedness and urgency and focus on biosecurity, and I think that has been accomplished.”

2024 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

CDC: Heat may have contributed to four human cases of bird flu in Colorado (2024, July 17)
retrieved 17 July 2024

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Here is the new guidance for RSV vaccines



Health officials recently changed the guidelines for respiratory syncytial virus vaccines. Here’s what Canadians need to know about the guidance and the virus itself.

New guidance on vaccines

As of July 12, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) now recommends RSV vaccines for individuals who are 75 years old and older, especially those who have a greater risk of developing severe RSV.

Based on current evidence and expert opinion, NACI said in a news release, it also strongly recommends vaccines for those aged 60 and older who live in nursing homes and other chronic care facilities.

What is RSV?

RSV is a common contagious virus that often causes bronchiolitis, a lung infection, and pneumonia.

Infants face the highest risk of developing severe RSV disease, however, this risk also increases with age and with certain medical conditions, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). It can lead to serious complications for older people, including hospitalization and death.

What are the symptoms?

RSV typically causes mild, cold-like symptoms that usually begin two to eight days after exposure to the virus, according to PHAC.

Those with RSV may experience a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, wheezing, fever and less appetite and energy. Infants may be irritable, have trouble breathing and have less appetite and energy.

What is the treatment?

RSV infections are usually mild and last about one to two weeks. If you are infected, health officials recommend you stay home and limit contact with others.

They also recommend lots of rest and drinking plenty of fluids. Take over-the-counter products, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, if you have a fever. Seek immediate care or go to the hospital if you’re having trouble breathing or become dehydrated, PHAC adds.

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