Inflammatory Bowel Disease day took place across the world Thursday to raise awareness and create more understanding about IBDs.
In the Maritimes, there are over 17,000 people suffering from IBDs, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. According to the most recent study from Crohn’s and Colitis Canada (CCC), Canada has the highest rate of Crohn’s in the world, with 129,000 Canadians suffering from the disease. Data suggests 5,700 new cases of Crohn’s disease are diagnosed annually.
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Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital’s gastroenterologist Dr. Mark MacMillan says the day is a great way to increase awareness.
“There are lots of resources for our IBD population to gain knowledge about their disease, and that’s probably my biggest thing about World IBD Day, is it’s a way to enhance knowledge and understanding of this disease,” he said.
MacMillan says he treats about 10 to 15 patients per week who live with Inflammatory Bowel diseases. He says there’s hope and a variety of treatment options for people who are just finding out they have Crohn’s or colitis.
“It’s definitely not the end of the world for a diagnosis like this. It’s definitely something that you need to spend time with your specialists and ask lots of questions. There are some great resources out there like Crohn’s and Colitis of Canada–they have a great website.”
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Kevin Bourque is one of the quarter of a million Canadians who has an IBD. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when he was three months old.
“I ended up having a lot of surgeries as a young kid and ended up with one of those things they call an ostomy, or one of those things they call ‘a bag’,” Bourque said.
“I was always aware I had distinct challenges, but I was a very young, energetic and spry little guy, so I was able to overcome some fairly significant challenges.”
Bourque says there has been a shift in the industry since he was young, and more people are able to use medications to treat their IBDs, instead of surgery as a first resort. He says that for some people, it’s the best choice, but he’s happy to see more options available.
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Bourque says having good doctors and a good support system is important to everyone’s well-being.
“Anyone who has this will have challenging days, but the equal and equally important reality is that there is also a lot of hope, too,” he said.
“Having a good perspective and some medication options and some good people around you can go a whole long way in the direction of health and wellness, and living an awesome life.”
MacMillan says treatments currently range from oral medications to injections and infusions.
Crohn’s and Colitis Canada alerted Canadians to a new treatment for people diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and colitis Thursday. Health Canada has approved a biologic treatment called Entyvio (vedolizumab) that is said to directly target inflammation that causes the symptoms of Crohn’s and colitis.
MacMillan says it’s more good news in the advancement of treatment.
“What it does is it helps us and our patients gain control over the inflammation over the GI tract which is what causes their symptoms and the underlying symptoms for the disease,” he said, adding new medications such as Entyvio are additional tools to give patients hope.
“If something hasn’t worked in the past, we have something new to try,” MacMillan said.
According to CCC, symptoms of Crohn’s disease can include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, several internal cramps and weight loss.
Landmarks across Canada will be lit-up in purple on Thursday evening to further raise awareness- including the CN Tower in Toronto, and city hall in Halifax.