I could begin by saying "it's about time!" But all that would do is advertise my own lack of effort. For years I've been complaining that as physicians we should first be aware ourselves - and then educate all of our patients about the risks of radon exposure. But I'm guilty of being quick to complain, and slow to do anything to make a difference.
Things are changing - thanks to an initiative by the University of Iowa. Special thanks to my friend Gloria, for alerting me to these resources
First. What is the issue?
Exposure to radon in our homes is the second leading cause of lung cancer and the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. If we are concerned about whether or not patients smoke, we should also be concerned about whether they have tested for radon in their homes. It doesn't take any longer to ask about radon than it does about smoking. And in some ways, radon exposure is much easier to "treat." It doesn't take any will-power to check a radon level or remedy an abnormal one. And once you've done it - unlike health practices you need to continue for a lifetime - you can say "done" and check it off your list.
From the physician's side it should be a no-brainer. We aren't talking about a small subset of people who are affected. Physicians can't complain that it won't make much of a difference. Everyone is at risk. High radon levels have been found in homes in all 50 states, old and new, urban and rural, north and south. One in 15 homes has an elevated level.
How many of you have been "screened" by your physician about radon levels? I know from a personal standpoint there is only one physician who ever asked me. My children's pediatrician. It seems she was ahead of her time.
In order to educate physicians about the importance of radon testing - both for themselves and for their patients - 2 videos are now available. One is longer and more detailed, the other shorter, and easier to listen to during a break between patients or while completing paperwork at the end of the day.
- Breathing Easier: An Informational Video for Physicians - 12 Minute Version
- Breathing Easier: An Informational Video for Physicians - 23 Minute Version
The Iowa Cancer Consortium also has further scientific information for physicians who wish to further understand the link between radon and lung cancer, and posters for those who wish to alert their patients to this danger:
In order to practice what I preach, I made sure to email these links to a few physician friends. How about you? Before you hesitate saying "my doctor should know about this" or "she won't have time," I have to share that I always appreciated when my patients shared medical information with me. No physician can be on top of everything. And this is something very important to stay on top of.
- Radon and Lung Cancer - What Everyone Should now
- How to Test Your Home For Radon
- What to Do If Your Radon Level is High
Photo: National Cancer Institute, Bill Branson (photographer)