In how much time can radon turn to be cancerous for your lungs?

Are you aware of the fact that radon can be dangerous for your health? Is your Ohio home radon tested? Houses of Ohio, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, or Washington are prone to radon infection. And radon gas can make your home really dangerous. Hence if you haven’t tested your home, think to do radon testing at the earliest and save your lungs from being affected by cancer.

In how much time can radon turn to be cancerous for your lungs?

Radon and Cancer:

Fortunately, with modern technological and medical advancements, many types of cancer-related mortality have been on the decline. However, lung cancer-related deaths have increased. As per ACS (American cancer society), the following are the details of the people who contracted lung cancer and perished:

  • Around 235,760 new cases of lung cancer (119,100 males and 116,660 females)
  • Around 131,880 deaths from lung cancer (69,410 males) and 62,470 females)

About Radon

Radon is a radioactive noble gas that does not have odour, taste or smell and could give you lung cancer. If you smoke and get exposed to radon, chances of you getting cancer are relatively high. A high rate of lung cancer was first reported in uranium miners as they were exposed to lethal concentrations of radon. Uranium, thorium, and Radium are some of the radioactive elements whose decay produces radon.

As per statistics, radon is second after smoking in the number of deaths per year (21000 deaths Per year). It is highly potent and is classified as a class “A” carcinogen. You are more prone to inhale radon indoors (inside your house) if there is no basement. You might not get to know if you were exposed to the gas or the radiation until lung cancer is diagnosed. If you inhale radon, how much time it may take for you to get lung cancer, let’s find out.

Radon affects the Lungs:

As we know if you smoke, you are at risk of getting cancer. This risk increases manifolds if you get exposed to radon. If you are a non-smoker and still get infected with lung cancer, it is highly likely that you were exposed to radon. Like other gases, radon dissolves in your bloodstream, passes through the entire body and organs and is eventually released through the skin or lungs. Radon produces electrically charged radioactive particles. These particles are less potent when attached to air particles (dust or smoke). But when these radioactive particles are inhaled directly, they penetrate deeper at the cell level. Hence, chances of getting cancer increase.

How much radioactive particles exposure can be lethal?

When you breathe in radon, it gets into the lining of the lungs and gives off radiation. For prolonged exposure, damage at the cell level turns into cancer. Radon damages chromosome and DNA structure confined in the core of the cell. Some of these damaged cells have the capability to reproduce in a cancerous manner. Most cancers originate from damaged cells to a single cell. Mutation and transformation can be caused by a single radioactive particle and cause genomic DNA damage. Since such damages are at the cellular level hence there is no safe limit.

How long does it take radon gas to cause lung cancer?

Here is the much-awaited information that we all had been waiting to hear, how long does it take radon to cause lung cancer? Once a person is exposed to radon, radioactive particle loses their potency and becomes completely harmless approximately after 44 years. If radioactive particle damages the cell, lung cancer can take a minimum of 5 years for the onset, but usually takes 15-25 years or longer.

Because of the slow onset of cancer and long decay of the radioactive particle, it is not possible to quantify the increase in the mortality rate due to exposure to radon. The only available data is radiological research and studies on hundreds of miners exposed to radon or animals. Once exposed to radon, not everyone will develop lung cancer, but the risk of lung cancer remains for the rest of their life and the risk gets higher with more exposure.

Lung cancer can start as distressing cough, breath shortness or wheezing. If the damage is more and spread is higher, there could be a cough in the blood, chest pain may surface. There is no medical treatment that can expel the radioactive particle from the body and there is no medical test that could quantify the amount of radon inhaled. Buildings that are constructed directly on the ground (slab on grade) are at the highest risk. As we know gases can escape from the cracks, hence any enclosed areas especially basements, underground parking lots have the highest radon levels. Some of the materials like concrete, granite, wallboard might raise the radon level in your house but not to the dangerous level. Radon is found in the water too if the source is a reservoir, river or lake, but most of the radon gets out in the air.

How to get your home screened for radon using DIY ways

Radon is a by-product of the natural decay of radioactive elements like Uranium, thorium and radium in the soil and rocks. This radioactive gas does not have a smell and getting exposed to it could put you at risk of getting cancer. Experts recommend a mandatory radon check for the homes below the second floor. You can do redon testing by yourself and use the following DIY methods:

  • Short Term DYI methods:

If you want to quickly check the radon level, you can opt for the short-term DYI testing. This method measures radon for a couple of days for some tests and other tests could go up to 3 months.

Short term DIY ways include charcoal canisters, charcoal liquid scintillation detectors and continuous monitors. Short term DIY tests provide you with potentially elevated radon levels in your home. But various studies concluded that long term DYI tests provide you near accurate results.

  • Long term DYI methods:

Electret ion chamber and alpha-track detector check radon level beyond 3 months. You can get the DIY testing kit from the hardware store and place the device in the locations where you want to test the radon level.

In case the radon level is around 4 pCi/L or more, the next short term and or long-term tests are performed to ensure radon hazard is mitigated. Once the radon source is identified, gas is rerouted through tubes and funnels to the outdoors.

Lung Cancer medical care

Lung cancer kills more people than any other cancer and there is a rise in the number of fatalities. Lung cancer starts at the trachea and spreads to the lungs. There is a high risk of the spread across the body as lungs connect to the other major organs and may impact kidneys, liver, brain, bones and larynx. It is vital to detect the cancer spread in the early stage in order to surgically remove the tumour or make use of radiation therapy or chemotherapy to control the spread by killing the cancerous cell.

During the screening process, you may be advised to take a few tests such as imaging tests, sputum cytology or biopsy. Once cancer has been detected, the next work is to identify the stage of cancer. If cancer has spread from the lungs to other major organs, the doctor may advise MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging), PET (positron emission tomography) or bone scans. Stage 4 is called the advanced stage of cancer that has spread beyond the lungs. Based on your overall health, stage and type, the doctor may advise the treatment plan conducive to the situation. In some cases, if the side effects of the treatment overshadow the cure, doctors may not advise the treatment at all.

Lung cancer is said to be incurable without the surgery coupled with radiation therapy and chemotherapy subject to the stage of cancer. If you are advised surgery, the surgeon will remove cancerous tissues along with some healthy tissues. The procedure includes wedge resection to remove part of the lung that is infected with cancer along with the edge of the healthy tissues. Segmental resection is performed to remove a larger portion of the infected lung. In lobectomy, the entire lobe of the lung is removed. When the entire lung must be removed, it is called a pneumonectomy.

Radiation therapy is used to kill the malignancy cells. It helps patients with advanced lung cancer to get some relief from the pain. If surgery is not advised by the doctor, then radiotherapy along with chemotherapy become your main treatment. Chemotherapy is another way to kill cancerous cells by using a combination of drugs that are taken either orally or taken intravenously. Targeted drug therapy is another treatment that focuses on aberrations within the cancer cells. Such treatment blocks the aberrations and cancer cells die. Immunotherapy is one more way to treat cancer and is generally used on people with advanced stages. Here own immune system fights cancer. Since cancer cells produce a protein that helps them survive from your own immune system, immunotherapy helps by interfering with that.

To keep yourself and your family healthy, you should go for radon testing of your home at the soonest possible time.