Health Information

Bristol-Myers Squibb Canada helps patients prevail over many serious and life-threatening diseases. To learn more about these diseases and conditions, click below.


Arthritis and related disorders

If you think arthritis is a disease of the elderly, you’re wrong – but not completely wrong! Older people may have arthritis but much younger people can too. In fact, arthritis can affect people of any age, including even young children.

There are many different conditions that are grouped together as “arthritis.” Their common denominator is joint and musculoskeletal pain.

A Health Canada study published in 2003 indicated that 1 in 6 Canadians has some type of arthritis and nearly two thirds (60%) are under the age of 65. By 2026, it’s estimated that more than 6 million Canadians older than 15 will have arthritis, up from 4 million Canadians today. This is at least partly due to an increase in obesity, longer life expectancy and an aging baby boomer population1.

The Arthritis Society

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that rapidly and aggressively attacks the joints and sometimes internal organs. It affects 300,000 Canadians (1 out of 100)2 – three times more women than men – striking most often between the ages of 25 and 50, at the height of their productive years. The inflammation of RA can be painful and can lead to permanent damage if the disease is not treated and controlled. Ten per cent of Canadians with RA are unable to continue working after one year; 42 per cent stop work after three years. Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment are essential.3 In recent years, new treatments have provided great improvements in quality of life for persons with rheumatoid arthritis.


Unfortunately, we all know someone who lives with cancer, or possibly recently died of cancer. In Canada, 171,000 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2009 alone, and 75,300 died of the disease in the same year.4 Cancer is a disease that starts in our cells. Our bodies are made up of millions of cells, grouped together to form tissues and organs such as muscles and bones, the lungs and the liver. Genes inside each cell order it to grow, work, reproduce and die. Normally, our cells obey these orders and we remain healthy. But sometimes the instructions get mixed up, causing the cells to form lumps or tumours, or spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body.5

Canadian Cancer Society

Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada

Colon Cancer Canada

Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada

CML Society of Canada

Colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer, also called colon cancer or large bowel cancer, includes cancerous growths in the colon, rectum and appendix. With 655,000 deaths worldwide per year6 , it is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the Western world. Every year in Canada, an estimated 20,800 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the country. Half of these patients have metastatic disease, or cancer that has spread to other organs, at the time of diagnosis7, often making aggressive treatment necessary. Colorectal cancer is one of the cancers that has very different mortality rates in different parts of Canada, being approximately twice as high in Newfoundland and Labrador as in British Columbia.8

Head and neck cancer

Head and neck cancer (HNC) is a generic term used to refer to cancers that arise in the head or neck region (in the nasal cavity, sinuses, lips, mouth, salivary glands, throat, or larynx)9. Using tobacco or alcohol increases risk for HNC. In fact, 85 percent of head and neck cancers are linked to tobacco use, including smoking and smokeless tobacco. If found early, these cancers are often curable.10

The majority (90%) of these malignancies are squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck (SCCHN). SCCHN affects body sites critical to the vital functions of speech and swallowing leading to devastating effects on quality of life. It was estimated that in 2009 there were over 4,600 cases of HNC cancer in Canada, and approximately 1,700 HNC-related deaths. The five-year survival rate for SCCHN ranges from 27-56%. Locally and regionally advanced SCCHN account for more than half of the total cases of HNC. Most HNC cases occur in men over 50 years of age. Canadian men are 2.5 times more likely than women to be diagnosed with HNC.11

Chronic myelogenous leukemia

Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), one of four types of leukemia, is often a slowly progressing cancer of the blood and bone marrow that is characterized by an over-production of white blood cells. Normally, cells are formed, mature, carry out their function, die, and are replaced with new cells. With CML, the normal blood cell production process is disrupted. The white blood cells produce uncontrollably and do not mature to carry out their intended function and ultimately crowd out the healthy cells. There are three different phases to CML: chronic, accelerated and blast. Results of a blood test will help to determine the phase.12 It is a relatively rare disease, with approximately 460 new cases in Canada each year, about one case for every 100,000 people. It is estimated that approximately 3,000 Canadians are currently living with CML, which usually occurs during or after middle age.13 New treatments made available in the past several years have had a dramatic impact on CML, helping make it a much more manageable disease for many.


Malignant melanoma is an aggressive and generally therapy-resistant cancer arising from melanocytes29, which are pigment cells of the skin. Incidence of this disease has risen rapidly worldwide, with a reported 600% increase from 1950 to 200030. Melanoma is the second most common cancer among those aged 20–39 years, with almost a third of cases occurring under the age of 5031. Early detection and complete excision is the only proven curative strategy. Unfortunately, 15–25% of patients will develop metastases, the majority of whom will die within two years32. The fact that systemic therapy remains the mainstay of treatment despite low efficacy rates highlights the paramount importance to improve outcome through discovery of more efficient therapies33.

Cardiovascular diseases

In Canada someone dies from heart disease or stroke every seven minutes. Cardiovascular disease (heart disease, diseases of the blood vessels and stroke) is the leading cause of death in Canada, accounting for 31% of all deaths, according to 2005 data from Statistics Canada.

Many individual conditions make up what we call heart disease, but they are all connected in that they interfere in some way with the ability of the heart to get energy from the oxygen and nutrients in blood and pump the blood where it is needed throughout the body.

The many different conditions can have many different causes. For example, coronary artery disease refers to the build up of fatty material, calcium and scar tissue (collectively called plaque) in the arteries, narrowing them and preventing the heart from getting the blood and oxygen it needs to do its job.

Though heart disease has many genetic components, making some more at-risk than others, many things can be done to prevent, detect and manage heart disease. The best defence is a generally healthy lifestyle that includes good and balanced nutrition, regular exercise, minimization of stress, limited alcohol consumption, control of weight and not smoking. 17

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada

High blood pressure

High blood pressure, known in medical terms as hypertension, affects one in five Canadians. It is the number one risk factor for stroke and a major risk factor for heart disease, so it is very important that it is properly controlled. However, since high blood pressure often produces no detectable symptoms, 42% of Canadians with it remain undiagnosed and untreated, despite the availability of many different treatments that can control it effectively. It is thus important, particularly as we age, to have blood pressure tested regularly so this “silent killer” can be detected and treated before it does its damage. The good news, however, is that for many people the appropriate use of medication can bring high blood pressure under control, reducing the risk for heart disease.

Heart attack

A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, occurs when the blood supply to the heart is interrupted or critically slowed. In 90% of cases, this is caused by a reduction in blood flow in the coronary arteries caused by atherosclerosis. The extent of the blood flow reduction, and how long it lasts, will determine the damage - ranging from sudden death to relatively moderate effects.18 Control or reduction of risk factors for heart disease has been shown to lessen the likelihood of a heart attack, so it is important to control as many of those factors as possible (for example blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol). There are many medications to help control such risk factors, and thus help to prevent a heart attack.


A stroke is a collective term for the sudden loss of brain function caused by the interruption of the flow of blood to the brain (ischemic stroke) or the rupture of blood vessels in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke). This loss of normal blood supply causes brain cells in the affected area to die, so depending on where the stroke occurs and its impact, different functions of the body will be affected to different degrees. Often, movement, vision, memory, speech and the ability to read and write are affected. Effects can vary greatly in degree, from very mild and reversible, to very severe and irreversible. The more and longer the different brain cells are deprived of the oxygen and nutrients they need, the worse the symptoms and the greater the risk of the damage being permanent.19 Effective reduction of risk factors for stroke has been shown to decrease the likelihood of suffering one.


Hepatitis is a disease involving the inflammation of the liver, characterized by the presence of inflammatory cells in the tissue of the organ. Hepatitis may occur with limited or no symptoms, but it can lead to jaundice, anorexia (poor appetite) and malaise. Hepatitis is acute when it lasts less than six months and chronic when it persists longer. A group of viruses known as the hepatitis viruses cause most cases of hepatitis worldwide, but hepatitis can also be due to toxins (notably alcohol, certain medications and plants), other infections and autoimmune diseases.20

Canadian Liver Foundation

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B (HPB) is an important vaccine-preventable infectious disease, with its chronic form affecting an estimated 230,000-290,000 people in Canada. The incidence rate of clinically recognized acute hepatitis B has been estimated to be 2.3 per 100,000, or approximately 700 cases a year. The hepatitis B virus is transmissible through several means, such as injection drug use, exposure to contaminated blood or body fluid, sexual activities, from mother to infant, and between children and household contacts through skin lesions or sharing of blood-contaminated toothbrushes and razors.21 While there is no cure for hepatitis B and it is a complicated condition to treat, recent advances in antiviral medications are effective in controlling the virus which may stop the progression of the disease and prevent complications.


AIDS stands for Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome and, after appearing in the 1980s, it was determined that it was caused by what became called the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV. HIV prevents the immune system from doing its job, which is to prevent and fight infections. As a result, persons infected with HIV are susceptible to infections and tumours, which can severely compromise health or cause death. HIV is transmitted by direct contact with bodily fluids – such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk – from an infected person to an uninfected person, not by casual contact between persons.22

Since the 1980s, when HIV infection was generally considered a death sentence, great progress has been made in helping prevent the spread of the infection and in treating it with a variety of new medicines that have transformed HIV infection into a potentially manageable chronic condition with a markedly improved quality of life. Deaths from HIV/AIDS have decreased dramatically in Canada from a peak in the early 1990s.

Although the disease was first identified in and continues to be most prevalent in sexually active homosexual men, other important populations with the infection include injection drug users, aboriginal peoples, prison inmates, and those from countries where the infection is wider spread than Canada.23

In Canada, the number of people living with HIV (including AIDS) continues to rise, from an estimated 57,000 in 2005 to 65,000 in 2008, a 14 per cent increase. 24

Canadian AIDS Society

Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE)

Canadian Treatment Action Council

Coalition des organismes communautaires Québécois de lutte contre le sida (COCQ-Sida)

Mental health

Mental health is a crucial dimension of overall health. It influences how we feel, perceive, think, communicate and understand. Mental health issues can keep people from achieving their full potential or playing an active part in everyday life. Mental health issues can impact many areas, from enhancing our emotional well-being, treating and preventing psychotic and/or emotional symptoms to the prevention of suicide.25

Canadian Mental Health Association

Mood Disorders Society of Canada

Schizophrenia Society of Canada

Schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by abnormalities in the perception or expression of reality.26 It is a form of psychosis, meaning it interferes with a person’s ability to interpret what is real or not. It causes patients to have “positive” symptoms, including hearing voices (hallucinations) and having deliriums, and “negative” symptoms, such as emotional withdrawal and apathy. Symptoms vary widely among patients. Diagnosis is based on the patient's self-reported experiences and observed behaviour.

An estimated 335,000 Canadians have schizophrenia, most diagnosed in their late teens or early adulthood. There is no cure and it is a lifelong disease. The primary goal of treatment is to provide relief of both positive and negative symptoms. With such control, people can live full and productive lives. Unfortunately, treatment discontinuation among patients with schizophrenia remains high at 40 to 50%. Because symptoms, individuals, and medications differ so greatly, there is always a need for new and effective treatment options.27 When a person with schizophrenia finds a medication that does work for them, it can allow the disease to be very effectively controlled over long periods and potentially improves his quality of life.

Bipolar disorder

Formerly called manic-depression, bipolar disorder encompasses a variety of mood disorders through which normal emotions – with relatively limited and controlled lows and highs of sadness and elation – are replaced with a roller-coaster from one “pole” of extremely low lows, which produce symptoms of depression, to the opposite “pole” of very high highs, or mania, which can result in irrationally energetic and exuberant activity. These mood swings, which are driven by forces usually unrelated to external events, lead to great disruptions in normal work or school activities, and in relationships.

The cause of bipolar disorder is not known for sure. Genes or family history play a strong role, particularly in cases that develop at a young age, but it is impossible to predict and also difficult to diagnose. People often suffer from symptoms of depression for a long time before being diagnosed (on average, eight years) and finding an effective treatment. The disorder often starts in early adulthood, between ages 18 and 24 years, but can start in childhood or as late as the 50s. Bipolar disorder affects about 1.2 per cent of the adult population in Canada, affecting men and women equally.28 Use of medication can be very effective in controlling the symptoms of bipolar disease in many patients.


1. Arthritis Society website :

2. Statistics Canada:
3. Orencia boiler plate
4. Canadian Cancer Society : Canadian Cancer Statistics 2009, p.17
5. Canadian Cancer society website :

6. Wikipedia :
7. Erbitux boiler plate
8. Canadian Cancer Society, 2009 statistics, accessed at

9. National Cancer Institute – US website:
10. Medicine Plus website :
11. Erbitux boiler plate
12. Sprycel boiler plate
13. CML Society website:
17. Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation website :

18. “What is a heart attack?” Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, accessed at:
19. Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation website :

20. Wikipedia :
21. Public Health Agency of Canada :

22. Wikipedia :
23. Public Health Agency of Canada website:
24. Aids Committee of Toronto website :
25. Health Canada website :
26. Wikipedia :
27. Abilify boiler plate
28. Mood Disorders Society of Canada : What is bipolar disorder pamphlet, p.3, 6
29.  DeVita VT HS, Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology, 7th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2005
30.  Homsi J, Kashani-Sabet M, Messina JL et al. Cutaneous melanoma: prognostic factors. Cancer Control 2005; 12:223–9.
31.  SEER Database
32.   Korn EL et al. J Clin Oncol 2008;26(4):527-34
33.   Dummer R, Hauschild A, Jost L. Cutaneous malignant melanoma: ESMO clinical recommendations for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Ann Oncol 2008;19 Suppl 2:ii86-8.