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Lung Cancer Awareness Month

By HERWriter
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November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month so I'm doing my part to help spread the word about causes, symptoms or warning signs, treatments, prevention, and research.

Lung Cancer Facts

Lung cancer kills more people every year than breast, prostate, colon, and pancreatic cancer combined. In fact one in every three cancer deaths is due to lung cancer. Lung cancer doesn't discriminate between ethnic groups and there is no particular ethnic group that is more affected by lung cancer than another.

Lung cancer kills more than three times as many men as prostate cancer, and almost two times as many women as breast cancer. Lung cancer kills an average of 437 people every day.

Surprisingly, over 60% of new cases are never smokers or smokers who quit decades before they are diagnosed.

Who is at Risk for Lung Cancer

Nearly 87% of all lung cancer diagnoses are caused by smoking. The longer a person smokes and how many tobacco products they smoke per day increases the right of developing lung cancer. As we've seen above, smokers who quit are still at risk for developing lung cancer.

Exposure to radon and asbestos can also lead to development of lung cancer. Even scarring from certain types of pneumonia can leave lungs susceptible to development of cancer cells.

Even a generally healthy person - one who has never smoked, or been exposed to radon or asbestos, or has had pneumonia - can get lung cancer. So far there is no sure-fire way of preventing it or predicting who will get it.

Symptoms or Signs of Lung Cancer

The kinds and severity of symptoms varies depending on the type, location, and size of the particular cancer tumor. There are many cases where patients haven't experienced any symptoms at all until the later stages of the cancer.

When symptoms appear they can include, but are not limited to:

  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue
  • wheezing
  • pain in the chest, shoulder, upper back, or arm
  • coughing up blood
  • recurring bouts of pneumonia or bronchitis
  • loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Add a Comment3 Comments

    HERWriter Guide

    Hi Gloria - Thank you for sharing your story and for providing so much information about radon's relationship to lung cancer. I'm sorry you and your family had this experience, and appreciate that you have chosen to share what you've learned and be an advocate on behalf of others.

    Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and is associated with 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths each year, according the the National Cancer Institute, the research arm of the US National Institutes of Health.

    Radon is a radioactive gas released from the normal decay of uranium in rocks and soil and is present in nearly all air. Everyone breathes radon in every day, usually at very low levels. However, people who inhale high levels of radon are at an increased risk for developing lung cancer.

    Radon can enter homes through cracks in floors, walls, or foundations, and collect indoors. It can also be released from building materials, or from water obtained from wells that contain radon. Radon levels can be higher in homes that are well insulated, tightly sealed, and/or built on uranium-rich soil. Because of their closeness to the ground, basement and first floors typically have the highest radon levels.

    More information from the National Cancer Institutes on radon can be found here:


    Kansas State University, which is one of the resources for radon test kits, has an extensive online list of information resources here:


    Gloria, you have reached a lot of people with your message. Thanks for taking the time to write, and I hope you will stay in touch. Best wishes to you in your work on behalf of cancer survivors.
    Take good care,

    November 20, 2009 - 5:40pm
    EmpowHER Guest

    Radon and Lung Cancer--Confident in My Ignorance

    We think we know about radon and lung cancer, but do we?
    Why was I so confident in my ignorance is the question I ask myself very often. In the months prior to my husband’s diagnosis of lung cancer, he mentioned to me that perhaps we should check our home for radon gas. Of course, I didn’t know anything about radon gas, but thought I did. I said that our home was relatively new—only twenty years old—and we had a tight basement. I was confident in my ignorance! Because radon cannot be detected through our senses, the only way to know if this silent killer is intruding into your home is to test. Recognizing what we can’t see, taste or smell is the problem.
    In the year before his diagnosis, my husband Joe also said to me that he might have cancer. My husband had previously had two triple artery bypasses twenty years apart. Again, I said, you don’t have cancer; you have heart disease. I thought he was just worrying too much. I thought I knew but I didn’t. My husband Joe was a person to take preventive and safe measures. For 27 years he worked and exercised every day, kept a low fat, low cholesterol diet, and didn’t smoke. We had smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers in our home; and we didn’t burn candles. Joe only lived six weeks after his diagnosis of lung cancer that had spread to his liver and bones. We had been living with a radon level of 17.6 picocuries per liter of air in our home for 18 years.

    Knowing the word radon and that it is a gas does not constitute knowledge of the element and its danger. You’ve heard the saying “A little knowledge can be dangerous.” I would change that to “A little knowledge can be deadly.” We, the general public, don’t know the facts. We must replace our limited knowledge with a full base of all the facts on radon.
    Dr. Bill Field, an American Academic Scholar and Professor in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health and Department of Epidemiology within the College of Public Health at the University of Iowa, who has recently been appointed to the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health by President Obama, stated that protracted radon progeny exposure is the seventh leading cause of cancer mortality in the United States and the leading environmental cause of cancer mortality. It is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among non-smokers. Large and recent studies confirm that radon in homes increases lung cancer risks. Throughout our world up to 18% of the lung cancers can be attributed to indoor radon according to Professor Bill Angell, Chair of the Prevention and Mitigation Working Group of the World Health Organization’s International Radon Project. . Radioactive particles from radon gas are inhaled and attach to the air sacs in the lungs. These particles change the characteristic of the cells to cancer, and those mutated cells divide and multiply.
    Radon is a radioactive gas that emanates from rocks and soils and tends to concentrate in enclosed spaces like houses. Soil gas infiltration is the most important source of residential radon and is present in every home (except ones on stilts) because of the way our homes are built and designed.
    The analysis from recent studies in Europe, North America, and Asia indicates that lung cancer risk increases proportionally with increasing radon exposure according to the World Health Organization (WHO). There is no known threshold concentration below which radon is safe. On September 21, 2009 WHO, in view of the latest scientific data, released a reference level of 2.7 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L) as a minimum level to minimize health hazards due to indoor radon exposure.
    Radon is easy to measure. Every home needs to be tested for radon because each home has its own individual footprint on the earth. The homeowner cannot rely on the results of surrounding houses in the neighborhood. A short term (3-7 days) and/or long term (3-12 months) test kit can be used. Radon professionals can also perform the test with electronic devices. Test kits can be obtained from the radon hotline at (785) 532-6026 or email at Radon@ksu.edu or Web site: www.sosradon.org. Radon test kits can also be purchased at the local hardware stores.
    It is easy to protect from radon gas. Addressing radon is important in new construction as well as existing buildings. Radon prevention strategies focus on sealing radon entry routes and using soil depressurization techniques to prevent the gas from entering the home. The cost is very reasonable. “How little it can cost to save a life!” is what I would say to someone who complained about the expense of a radon mitigation system installed by a licensed radon professional.
    I write this in memory of my husband Joe --who was so very dear to me—my friend, my partner, my companion, my love. I ask you to test your home for radon during this month of November—National Lung Cancer Awareness Month. If your level is above 2.7, spend that little extra money to help save a life. That life may be someone you love.
    October 22,2009
    Gloria Linnertz
    Cancer Survivors Against Radon
    618 830 4660
    618 Evansville Ave.
    Waterloo, IL 62298

    November 20, 2009 - 7:06am
    HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

    Thank you for sharing that, Gloria! Wow! I, too, would have to claim ignorance where radon is concerned. I had heard of radon detectors like smoke detectors, but never paid them much mind because I didn't really know anything about Radon.

    Thank you for adding to the debate...guess what I'm putting on my shopping list!

    November 20, 2009 - 7:59am
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    We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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