Senator David Wells speaks in the Senate

Posted June 1st, 2016 by Canadian Hemochromatosis Society


Volunteer Ottawa Chapter leaders Kate and Jackie Lalumiere flank Senator David Wells with CHS president Ian Hilley

Speaking in the Senate on May 31st, Senator Wells’ informed Senators of the dangerous consequences of undiagnosed and untreated hemochromatosis, and highlighted the work of the Canadian Hemochromatosis Society. Here is his speech:

Honourable senators, May is Hemochromatosis Awareness Month across Canada. I’ve spoken previously on this, and it is a cause that is important to me personally and one that’s very worthy of the public’s support and awareness. If undiagnosed and untreated, hemochromatosis can lead to serious health complications, even death.

Although most Canadians have never heard of it, hereditary hemochromatosis is the most common genetic disorder in Canada. Hemochromatosis causes the body to retain too much iron, and if undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, arthritis and some forms of cancer. Major organs are affected by excess iron.

Iron overload builds slowly, typically taking 25 to 30 years before symptoms appear in men, and longer in women. Left undiagnosed and untreated, excess iron can cause irreversible damage and can be fatal.

Diagnosis can be made by a simple blood test for iron levels and, when necessary, a genetic test for confirmation. Early diagnosis is critical in the prevention of the complications of hemochromatosis.

The Canadian Hemochromatosis Society exists to support patients, families and health care providers. It strives to create awareness of hemochromatosis and provide support for those affected. The Society has helped many Canadians avoid the progressive suffering, disability and premature death from chronic diseases prompted by hemochromatosis.

The Canadian Hemochromatosis Society has also developed a simple set of questions to help determine if you might be at risk. If you are of Celtic or northern European lineage, you are in the group with the highest risk for carrying the hemochromatosis gene. One in 300 Canadians may be affected, and there exists a higher ratio in places like Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia due to the strong Irish and Great Britain lineage.

As someone who suffers from hemochromatosis, I can assure you that awareness is the cure. This evening I am hosting a reception to help support the Canadian Hemochromatosis Society in increasing awareness of the genetic disorder that affects iron metabolism. It takes place from five to seven o’clock this evening in Room S-256 Centre Block. Together let’s put an end to higher health care costs and the greater suffering and premature death related to hemochromatosis in Canada. Thank you, colleagues.