Personal stories: Faces of lung cancer
Lung cancer patient urges homeowners to test for radon
The first sign was a persistent, dry cough. “It felt like a tickle at the back of my throat,” says Antonella Gilmore. After several doctors’ visits and tests, Ms. Gilmore, 50, eventually learned she had lung cancer. She was stunned. “I had never been a smoker and I was young.” Just 47 when she was first diagnosed, Ms. Gilmore, who lives in Brampton, Ontario, was an active mother of two. Lung cancer was the furthest thing from her mind. She doesn’t know for sure what caused her lung cancer, but believes radon gas exposure could be a culprit.
Radon – a gas found naturally in soil, rock and water – can seep into your home through cracks in the walls or foundation. Breathing in high levels of radon gas over time can cause lung cancer. According to the Canadian Lung Association, about 10 per cent of lung cancers are caused by radon exposure. Lung cancer rates among women are increasing even though smoking rates are decreasing.
Ms. Gilmore is hoping her story will raise awareness about lung cancer and the health risk of radon gas exposure. She is urging Canadians to test their homes for radon gas this winter to find out if they’re at risk. You can buy a test kit at most hardware stores or you can hire a certified radon contractor to perform the test. Testing is easy and costs about $50 for a do-it-yourself kit. Tests should be done in the fall or winter when windows are closed for accurate results. Long-term test kits are more accurate than the short-term variety.
Radon gas levels are measured in a unit called the becquerel (Bq). The Canadian Lung Association says radon levels above 200 Bq are harmful, but it’s a good idea to lower your home’s radon level as much as possible, even it is below 200 Bq. You can hire a certified radon mitigation contractor to determine the source of the problem and make repairs to your home to prevent the radon from seeping in. Ms. Gilmore is currently testing her home and is anxious to learn the results.
Despite living with the sobering reality of stage 4 lung cancer, Ms. Gilmore radiates positive energy and speaks passionately of her desire to make a difference. "I’m not brave," she insists. "I want to raise awareness. I hope that by sharing my story it will prevent someone else from getting this awful disease."