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A Message from NDMA President Dr. Stephanie Dahl

Posted 11/16/23 (Thu)

As I begin my journey serving as NDMA president, I am committed to upholding the values that make NDMA the great organization that it stands for: to advocate for physicians and advance the health and well-being of North Dakotans.

Personal experiences often inspire passion. For me, that personal experience came in the form of my own health.



“I think there’s an 80-85% chance this is primary lung cancer,” the thoracic surgeon said as he scrolled through my PET-scan images. “Based on the number and location of the positive lymph nodes, you’re Stage III A.”

I was speechless. When a routine x-ray showed a 13 mm lung nodule, I wasn’t concerned. I’m a young(ish) woman who has never smoked a cigarette. Lung cancer wasn’t something I had ever worried about.

“Has your house been tested for radon?” he asked, turning away from his computer screen.
“Yes, we had a mitigation system installed in 2016, but our levels weren’t that high,” I replied.

But did the type of exposure matter? Was running on a treadmill for 2-3 hours per week worse than sleeping in a basement for eight hours every night?  I ran on a treadmill in our basement from 2006 to 2016, ten years of exposure to a highly carcinogen substance. I’d trained for a marathon down there. My mind was racing. If I had lung cancer, what about my husband and our three children? Would they be at risk, too?

“Unfortunately, every week I see women in their 40s and 50s who have never smoked with lung cancer every week,” said the surgeon, shaking his head. “The incidence of lung cancer in young women is increasing and radon is probably the biggest culprit. North Dakota and Minnesota have some of the highest radon levels in the country.”

Six weeks later, I underwent a right lower lobe wedge resection, and was extremely relieved that the final pathology results showed the nodules were benign.

Over the next few months, as I shared my experience with friends and neighbors, I was shocked by the number of people who had never heard of radon. After hearing my story, many friends tested their homes, found elevated radon levels, and underwent mitigation.

I was surprised at how many newer houses with passive mitigation systems had elevated radon levels that required upgrading to an active mitigation system. For these reasons, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends radon testing every two years.


As the president of the NDMA, I have a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the deadly substance lurking in many North Dakota homes. In addition to the risks of lung cancer, radon exposure has been associated with male factor infertility and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.

Public awareness campaigns are crucial in educating the public about the dangers of radon and encouraging mitigation efforts.

In fact, the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) was recently awarded $1 million to develop a radon awareness testing and mitigation project. DEQ will work with state Health and Human Services, the North Dakota Cancer Coalition and the Community Action Partnership of North Dakota to develop the project.
As part of NDMA’s advocacy efforts, we will be reaching out to learn more about the program and how NDMA can possibly interface with the collaborative efforts.

Radon testing kits can be easily obtained from local hardware stores and electronic monitors can be purchased from online retailers. In addition, the DEQ offers educational resources and free radon test kits. Learn more here.


To help increase radon awareness, I would like to share my story with your medical districts and your community.

Please reach out to NDMA at 701-223-9475 if your district medical society, or another organization in your community, may be interested in hearing more about radon awareness.


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