Healthy Living in the North

Tales from the Man Cave: Cancer awareness

A cairn on a rocky surface

The month of November is an important time for men’s health and men’s cancer awareness. Look out for the signs along the way!

Have you seen any extra stubble in your community over the last three days?

November is a great month for cancer support for men because all the lads seem to grow extra-long moustaches to raise awareness for the cause of prostate cancer. This is a good cause, indeed, and needs more support, however I am continually reminded that when it comes to cancer, there is more than the prostate involved and that testing for prostate cancer is something that needs careful discussion with your doctor. Approximately 4,100 men die each year from prostate cancer in Canada.

The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care, which advises doctors on the benefits of the prostate-specific antigen test (PSA), recommends that screening by PSA should not be done without detailed discussion with the man involved as there are risks involved from harms done through unnecessary treatment.

This is largely due to the nature of the different types of prostate cancer, some of which grow very slowly and some of which are fast-growing. Dr. Mike has a great explanatory video on YouTube.

What about those other cancers? Here’s a short rundown of the worst offenders:

Take testicular cancer, for example. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, in Canada in 2010, 40 men died from testicular cancer.

This is a cancer that can be cured if discovered early and that is why we encourage men (especially young men) to check themselves out. It is a sad thing to lose so many young men to this and it is better to go through life with one less than the alternative.

TIP: Check for lumps or bumps in the shower. 15 -35 is the most common age group for testicular cancer but it can occur at any age so just keep an eye out for anything that isn’t normal for you. HealthLinkBC has some more information on examining yourself.

Similarly, colorectal cancer kills approximately 5,100 men according to Canadian Cancer Society and is silent until well-developed.

That’s why the FIT test is recommended every two years after 50 years of age. This can be followed up by colonoscopy if anything requires further exploration.

Diets high in red meat and processed meats are a risk factor. Physical inactivity is a risk factor, as is obesity, smoking and heavy alcohol use. Diets high in vegetables and fruit lower risk and perhaps offer some protection.

Lung cancer is responsible for 10,900 deaths per year in Canada. Smoking causes 50% of all lung cancers – which is one of the reasons we keep saying “please stop smoking.” If everybody stopped smoking, there would be 5,450 fewer deaths from this disease within a few short years. There are currently no screening tests for lung cancer.

Skin cancer is also rising in numbers. HealthLinkBC has a good article here on what to look for.

The common thread? Changes.

No matter what it is: unusual lumps or bumps, changes in bowel habit, coughing up blood or blood in the toilet. Don’t be embarrassed – go get it checked out! Keep an eye on moles and if you see changes, you know what to do! Yes – check it out with your doctor!

If you bury your head in the sand, they might just bury the rest of you with it.

It only takes a simple appointment. And while you’re at it, ask what other screening options are available to you.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.


Cancer and men


Daffodils are popping up all over northern B.C. thanks to the Canadian Cancer Society’s annual Daffodil Month campaign. It’s a great chance to think about cancer prevention, screening, and treatment.

Flowers may be blooming in the Lower Mainland, but in northern B.C., you’re hard-pressed to find spring blossoms in April. There are daffodils everywhere, though, thanks to the Canadian Cancer Society’s Daffodil Month! The annual campaign raises funds and shows support for those living with cancer.

We likely all know of someone who has been affected by cancer and, according to the Where are the Men? report, men in northern B.C. have higher rates of new cancer diagnoses and are dying of cancer more often than women.

I sat down with Margaret Jones-Bricker, regional director for the Northern Region of the Canadian Cancer Society BC and Yukon Division to talk about cancers affecting men and what men can do to decrease their risk.

Are men at a higher risk for cancer than women?

When you look at cancers that only men can get, their risk is 100% greater. Such is the case with prostate and testicular cancers. Overall cancer risk and risk for specific cancers can be determined by a lot of other factors besides sex like lifestyle, genetics, age and family history. In Canada, men have a 45% lifetime probability of developing cancer compared with 41% for women.

What cancers should men be particularly concerned about?

The three most common types of cancer in men are lung, colorectal and prostate. Prostate cancer accounts for about one-quarter (24%) of all new cancer cases in men. Breast cancer rounds out the top four most frequently diagnosed cancers in Canada, but is much less common in men.

In the north, we have higher rates of tobacco use, which means higher rates of lung cancer. Smoking is related to more than 85% of lung cancer cases in Canada and men develop lung cancer slightly more often than women.

Approximately 1,000 Canadian men were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2014. It is the most common cancer in young men 15–29 years of age.

What can men do to decrease their risk of cancer?

The number one thing men can do is if you smoke, stop!

Other ways to decrease cancer risk include lifestyle changes related to physical activity and healthy eating. The Canadian Cancer Society has some great nutrition and fitness recommendations.

Occupational and environmental factors can also impact our health; these include our home and work environments. Have your home tested for radon, which is a factor in lung cancer, second only to tobacco use.

What screening options are available to men? How do they know if they should be screened?

Approximately 5-10 per cent of cancers are related to specific inherited genetic abnormalities. The fact that 1 or 2 family members have been diagnosed with cancer doesn’t mean that you will also develop cancer. This is especially true if the family member is not a first-degree relative or if the cancers are of different types. It is important to discuss screening with your doctor if you have a family history of cancer. Your doctor may suggest testing at an earlier age or using a different test than recommended by the provincial guidelines.

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that men (and women) age 50 and over have a stool test (guaiac-based fecal occult blood test or fecal immunochemical test) at least every 2 years. There is convincing evidence that stool tests with appropriate followup can significantly reduce deaths from colorectal cancer.

Prostate cancer seems to be different. Large, reliable studies haven’t been able to tell us clearly whether it’s a good thing to use these tests to look for prostate cancer. So, we recommend that you talk to your doctor about your risk of prostate cancer and about the benefits and risks of finding it early.


In northern B.C., men have higher rates of new cancer diagnoses and are dying of cancer more often than women. There are, however, things that men can do to decrease their risk of cancer.

Are all cancers preventable?

Up to 50% of all cancers are preventable. Certainly your risk of contracting lung cancer is hugely preventable by quitting smoking.

For other cancers, we don’t always know what the cells in our bodies will do, but we can do our best by following a healthy lifestyle, getting physically active, eating more vegetables and fruit, and limiting our consumption of red meats and alcohol.

Investing in the best research has led to tremendous progress against cancer. We know more about what causes cancer, how it develops, how best to treat it and how we can improve the quality of life of people living with cancer. Today, over 60% of Canadians diagnosed with cancer will survive at least 5 years after their diagnosis. In the 1940s, survival was about 25%.

What resources are available for men looking for more information?

The Canadian Cancer Society has information specific to men and downloadable pamphlets on everything from cancer prevention to diagnosis and treatments:

We strongly encourage smokers to use the supports that are available to help them quit smoking and to get access to nicotine replacement therapies through the Lung Association’s QuitNow and the new QuitNow Men websites.

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is a Regional Lead for Population Health. She has a passion for healthy living and health promotion and is a foodie at heart. Originally from Ontario, she has fully embraced northern living, but enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She swims, bikes and runs, and just completed her first marathon.


Thinking health beyond Movember

Katryna Roos

Katryna is an advocate for men’s health. She wants to get men and women talking about health!

Twenty odd years ago when my parents got married, my dad sported a moustache; maybe it was the style or maybe it was the cold Manitoba winter. The moustache didn’t appear very often in my childhood and I hadn’t seen it for a while until it made an appearance two years ago when he participated in the wildly successful month of Movember. I’m proud to say that in the Maritimes, where I’m from, there seemed to be no shortage of Mo Bros. The past few years my younger brother also became a Mo Bro along with countless male friends of mine. Because of these wonderful men whom I care so much about, I’ve come to believe in the importance of Movember and the massive amounts of facial hair it brings. Now we’ve just gone through that time of year again, when men everywhere grew a “stache” for a cause, but what is the cause?

Movember is an initiative that was started in Australia in 2003 to raise money and awareness about men’s health and in just a decade it’s come a very long way. At first, I’ll admit I didn’t understand why men insisted on growing the stache, it was like walking right into the 80s, but I couldn’t deny how well it got people talking about this cause. And that is the point – to get people talking about men’s health. Movember is not just about the fundraising; the symbolic moustache is a walking billboard, telling men to be aware of their health.

The fundraising and message spreading is not just for men either. Any woman can become a Mo Sister and show the men in their lives how that they care about them, that even though they can drive us crazy at times, we want them around for years to come. Passionate Canadian women have taken the initiative to raise awareness and funds to support their furry lipped Mo Bros. Check out to see the contenders for this year’s Mo of Fame, to donate, or just for more information.

Now, even though Movember is over for this year, let’s keep talking! Let’s talk about men’s health and how to keep the wonderful men of Canada healthy and happy. Gentlemen, gentlemen! Studies have found that you just don’t want to talk about your own health. Enough of this “tough guy” attitude! Man up, and come in to your local clinic or doctor’s office for regular checkups. A simple talk with your doc could save your life. What should you be talking about? Prostate cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes! There are so many easy to treat diseases that no one wants to talk about. If treated early these issues could be very simple, but left untreated they can be deadly, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. For a great read filled with more information on the risks men are taking when it comes to health, check out the Chief Medical Health Officer’s Report “Where are the Men?”

So if you’re one of these wonderful Canadian men we’re talking about, come talk to us! And ladies, if there are any men in your lives you care about, fathers, brothers, sons, husbands, or friends, tell them you want them to be here for years to come and to do that they need to talk about their health. Come on Canada, let’s talk!

Katryna Roos

About Katryna Roos

Katryna is a Maritime girl who graduated from the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. After moving to Dease Lake in June she began working as a public health/acute care nurse at the Stikine Health Centre. She’s loved getting to know the community and all the wonderful people of Dease Lake. In her spare time she enjoys coaching the Bantam and Midget hockey players, playing in the Rec hockey league and exposing northern BC to maritime music. The Trews, Joel Plaskett, or Great Big Sea anyone? (Katryna no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)


Surviving prostate cancer and telling the tale

Allan Joseph, prostate cancer survivor.

Allan Joseph, prostate cancer survivor.

Meet Allan Joseph. He is the newly elected Chief of the Yekooche First Nation, located roughly 75 km northwest of Fort St. James. At 60 years old, Allan is a prostate cancer survivor who considers himself very lucky to have gone through radiation and chemotherapy treatment and live to tell the tale.

It was a little over five years ago that Allan received the diagnosis of prostate cancer, and he received treatment in Vancouver to rid his body of the sickness. Doctors were initially concerned that the cancer may have metastasized (spread) to other organs in the body. His follow-up appointments after the treatment were very regular for the first few years, and Allan made sure that he was taking an active part in his health by making all his appointments so that doctors could keep a close eye on his condition. Seeing his doctor on a regular basis is very important to Allan as he wants to stay on top of any health issues related to the prostate cancer.

The check-ups are an annual appointment for Allan now, just as they should be for all men that are over the age of 50 (hint hint).

The radiation treatments that Allan received caused him to experience quite a bit of weakness and numbness in his legs, and he admits that his mobility has not been the same since his treatment regimen. However, he says that the weakness in his legs is a small price to pay to be cancer free.

Despite his leg troubles, Allan is still an avid hunter and fisher. The hunting and fishing, as well as trapping for furs, has been part of the Yekooche way of life for thousands of years, and is an identifiable piece of his heritage that he cherishes. Living in the north has always presented itself with rugged obstacles that Yekooche members are well prepared to tackle with hunting and fishing methods that have been essential survival skills for millennia.

Family and community are integral to the hunting lifestyle that is so important within their traditional territory. Getting out and continuing the hunting and fishing traditions with his grandchildren is an important way for Allan to pass down the customs of his ancestors, much as his father taught him. Passing traditions down to the grandkids would normally seem routine, but not many people can say that they have 37 grandchildren!! He loves to take the kids out but chuckles as he recollects how noisy some of them can be during the hunt. It’s hard to keep kids in stealth mode!

Allan urges other men to take part in their own health by getting regularly screened for prostate issues, risk factors for heart disease and for blood sugar elevations associated with diabetes. These screenings can help people to identify problems that are easier to address with lifestyle changes when they are detected earlier on. Delaying check-ups can cause health issues to escalate out of control and make them much harder to treat down the road.

For more information on men’s health, visit

Laine Becker

About Laine Becker

Laine Becker is in his final year of the Bachelor of Nursing program at UNBC, working towards becoming a registered nurse, and has worked as student for NH's men's health program. He's lived in the north his whole life and feels he couldn't have picked a better place to live, choosing to stay here, now raising his two kids with his wife. He feels the north has everything for everyone and the last few years has renewed his passion for being outdoors, as he is teaching his kids the importance of being active and exploring the world in his backyard. He urges men and women to become involved in their own health care: Eat well, exercise regularly and get proper check-ups!


Tales from the Man Cave: Prostate exams

Here’s a wee story… about the importance of men getting regular testing for prostate cancer.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.


Tales from the man cave: Prostate cancer support group

prostate cancer support group

Prince George Prostate Cancer Support Group

I spoke recently with John Kason of the Prince George Rotary Club. Like most Rotarians, he likes to keep the spotlight on the work being done by the club in collaboration with Canfor – in this case, men’s health screenings for prostate cancer.


On November 10th of last year, the Rotary Club of Prince George organized a men’s health and prostate cancer awareness fundraiser called the “Big Blue Ball,” the first of its kind in northern B.C.

The end result was a sum of money for quarterly men’s health clinics throughout 2013, and startup funds for a local prostate cancer support network (now established, called the “Prince George Prostate Cancer Support Group”). The next sessions are Saturday, May 11, 2013 and Saturday, August 10, 2013.

Don’t you just love the sound of that rubber glove snapping onto the wrist in poetic majesty? The ‘dread,’ or DRE, otherwise known as the digital rectal exam is here to stay.

Please Doctor, why can’t I just have a blood test? 

Well you can but the DRE is a must have. The PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test is the simplest way to get tested but it can give higher reading for different reasons so the DRE is indeed necessary.

I do know this though – over the years, a sense of humour has been very appropriate to break the ice at that particular moment (while the doctor slips into something more comfortable – that aforementioned rubber glove). It is at least an excuse for a few jokes at work.

Here is where I put in my disclaimer. Some prostate cancers are very slow growing and, in my opinion, the jury is out as to the value of treatment at all, however, it is better to know what is going on and be monitored by your doctor than to bury your head in the sand.

The groups have organized screening events which continue throughout the year. Testing is being provided at no cost to participants and registration is now open.

Please visit or call 250.617.2711 for more information and to register.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.


Interview with Ride for Dad’s Charles Brunette

Ride for Dad

Raising funds for the fight against prostate cancer.

The Northern BC Ride for Dad was founded in October 2010 in order to raise awareness, educate and raise funds for prostate cancer research. I recently talked with one of the organizers, Charles Brunette.

Can you tell me a little about the Ride for Dad campaign?

The Ride for Dad campaign is a way of raising awareness and funds for research and treatment of prostate cancer. We have a dedicated group of 11 individuals who plan and organize the events during the course of the year and on ride day, in excess of 50 volunteers come together to support the cause. So join us on ride day and help us raise awareness about prostate cancer. All the money raised stays local.

Can you tell me, Charles, what inspired you to start the Ride for Dad campaign in Prince George?

I lost a close friend to prostate cancer a while ago and decided I would try and do something about it. I contacted Ride for Dad, which has campaigns in 31 cities throughout Canada, and started a chapter here in Prince George for northern B.C. The campaign raises funds through many initiatives but ride day is our major fundraiser with registration, souvenir sales and a poker run.

What’s the poker run?

A poker run is an event where participants, usually using motorcycles, must visit five to seven checkpoints drawing a playing card at each one.

The object is to have the best poker hand at the end of the run.

Where and when is the next event?

Saturday June 15th 2013. Registration is 9a.m. to 10:45a.m. and the ride departs at 11a.m.  sharp. There is also a pre-registration on Friday, June 14 at 7p.m. to 9p.m. All events are centered at the Kinsmen Hall in Prince George.

The parade starts at the Kinsmen Hall and returns for lunch and then we do the poker run which of course raises the money. The turnout is pretty decent with around 150 riders last year and this continues to build yearly.



Charles, I used to have a 50cc Honda – would I have been able to join? People used to shout “hair-dryer!” when I zoomed past them. It was so fast it once threw me over the roof of a car when it refused to brake. Luckily the car wasn’t harmed.

Well Jim you would be welcome but you might have trouble keeping up with my wife – her bike has 1800cc!

Perhaps I could tie a rope onto to her back seat!

Actually we are not just looking for riders – everybody is welcome to participate and help raise money for the cause. You could become a ride champion and raise funds that way. I can’t emphasize enough how important that is.

Charles what is the most important message that you would like to get across in this interview?

The most important message that I have to give is this: Men, get checked. It’s a simple test, takes very little time and early treatment has a good outcome. I know men don’t like going to the doctor. I only went because my wife put some pressure on me but really there is no good reason for us men not to have the test.

For more information about joining the event as a rider or other check out the website and make this year’s event even better. It’s a good cause.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.


Our Mr. Movember winner

Mr. Movember

Azreer Gill came in first place with the most votes in November’s Mr. Movember contest!

During the month of November, people all over the world promoted men’s health and prostate cancer by growing a Mo to help raise money to support prostate cancer research. The Northern Health Men’s Health program helped raise awareness by holding its first ever Mr. Movember contest to see who could grow the best Mo.

There were 11 very brave participants from across the Northern Health region.  Their pictures were posted on the men’s health website for all to see and the public voted on who had the best Mo. Each week, a new photo of each participants was put on the website to show their growing progress.

With over 4,000 votes from people picking their favourite Mo, we are pleased to announce that Azreer Gill, an NH environmental health officer from Terrace, is the winner of the first annual Mr. Movember contest.  Secondplace went to Shane Wadden, another environmental health officer from Terrace, and third went to Andrew Aucoin, Manager, Housekeeping and Laundry, from Prince George.

Thank you to everyone who voted and to all the participants! We look forward to next year.

Brandon Grant

About Brandon Grant

As the NH men’s health coordinator, Brandon Grant travels across the Northern Health region speaking with community members about the health issues men face and what we can do to improve men’s health. He has worked with a variety of community-based organizations, including the Nawican Friendship Centre and the Northern Family Health Society, and holds two master’s degrees, one in social work and one in public administration. To stay active, Brandon enjoys playing golf and tennis, and whenever possible, visits tropical destinations to go snorkeling. (Brandon no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)


Happy MOvember from Dr. Bowering


Check out our new MANual – a men’s health survival guide!! Visit to see it today!

It’s that time of year again, when men grow the Mo to support awareness of men’s health and to help raise money for prostate cancer research. What started out as a grassroots movement has now become one of the most iconic health promotion campaigns in the world. Raising awareness about prostate cancer and engaging men in their own health is incredibly important – and Northern Health is playing its part. Northern Health’s men’s health program has been working with our community partners over the last 16 months to raise awareness about all men’s health issues by:

  • Presenting to over 70 community groups on men’s health across the region.
  • Providing health screenings to over 800 northerners across our region for blood pressure, sugars, and cholesterol.
  • Developing promotional materials to reach men, including our men’s health website, radio and social media campaigns.

And most recently, we have developed a men’s health MANual, which provides health information for men of all ages about nutrition, active living, and health screenings at the various life stages. It’s a man maintenance guide for health – take a look and share it with the men in your family today!

Men in northern B.C. aren’t living as long as men in other parts of the province. MOvember reminds us that we need to work as a region-wide community to get men to live the best quality of life they can for themselves and their family. I want to invite all of you to check out the MANual and let us know what you think. ALso, stay tuned over the next couple days when we’ll be starting our Month of MAN promotion campaign at – we’ll have weekly contests and quizzes over the next month and you could win some great prizes!

Happy Mo growin’! Share your story with us! Are you growing a Mo?

Dr. David Bowering

About Dr. David Bowering

Dr. David Bowering is Northern Health’s Chief Medical Officer. In November 2010, he released the report “Where are the Men? Chief Medical Health Officer’s report on the Wellbeing of Men and Boys in Northern BC” and has been heavily involved with the men’s health program since then. To stay active, Dr. Bowering walks or bikes to work, walks his dog daily, boycotts elevators, hikes or cross-country skis most weekends and plays with his grandchildren.