Three health-care pros share their answers to their patients' common questions.
Q: How can I tell if a sun spot needs to be examined by a dermatologist?
Dr. Vincent Piguet, head of dermatology at Women's College Hospital in Toronto says:
"When in doubt, determine which moles may be a problem using the ABCDE guidelines for detecting potential melanomas.
Asymmetry: A benign mole is usually symmetrical and round.
Border: Look for an irregular perimeter that's difficult to define.
Colour: A variance in or uneven distribution of colour may be a warning sign. Diameter A melanoma spot is usually more than six millimetres in diameter.
Evolution: The most important characteristic is whether or not a mole has gone through sudden changes in any of the aforementioned features.
"If you notice one or more of these attributes, have your family doctor refer you to a dermatologist."
Q: My menstrual cramps are quite painful. Should I be worried about endometriosis?
Dr. Batya Grundland, family physician and maternity care lead at Women's College Hospital in Toronto says:
"A number of factors can lead to severe menstrual cramps, and endometriosis is one possibility. Endometriosis occurs when the endometrium, or uterine lining, grows outside the uterus—on the ovaries or fallopian tubes, for example—and can affect premenopausal women. Symptoms can also include pelvic pain during sexual intercourse, irregular bleeding and infertility. If a woman is worried about any of these symptoms, she should talk to her family physician, who may perform a physical exam or another assessment, such as blood tests or a pelvic ultrasound. However, the only definitive way to diagnose endometriosis is through laparoscopic surgery. Often, we'll manage symptoms using the birth control pill, other hormonal therapies or pain medication. When these treatments don't help, or there are issues with fertility, doctors will recommend surgery."
Q: What are some coping strategies for chronic pain disease?
Dr. Tania Direnna, medical director of the Toronto Academic Pain Medicine Institue at Women's College Hospital in Toronto says:
"Chronic pain disease, defined as any pain lasting longer than three to six months, affects one in five Canadians. It may be brought on by an injury or an ongoing cause, such as illness. In other cases, there may be no clear cause. Management options are aimed at teaching patients to function day by day and to focus on living a meaningful and purposeful life, rather than the pain they're experiencing. These approaches include improving coping skills and reducing stress through cognitive behavioural therapy and mindful meditation; practising healthy habits, such as exercise, and improving sleep; and teaching patients to use medications and nerve-block injections only as adjuncts to and not the mainstay of therapy."