Two Minnesota residents tested for radiation, but both died

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The Minnesota Department of Health reported today that tests showed a second person in the state has the same condition as a resident in Wyoming, where an environmental sample showed high concentrations of radiation.

An elderly woman, who lives in the city of Farmington, near St. Paul, died after exposure to radiation, and she left behind a daughter, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.

The woman’s daughter, Heidi Fagan, 65, was shocked by what she viewed as a sweet, little girl who liked to play cribbage and win prizes. But the girl’s “auntie” told her about a tumor that was pushing on her nalpinea, or lower intestines.

“In the years she was going to remission we called her the ‘cancer girl’ for years because she was so regular,” Ms. Fagan said. “But for a long time I called her ‘drama queen,’ because she had all the activity. She thought we were mad at her.”

The disease progressed quickly in young Ms. Fagan, who said the family was not treated with radiation. She said doctors, ultimately, believe cancer may have been caused by radiation exposure.

In October, the Minnesota Department of Health was briefed about a blood test on a resident in Wyoming, who was sickened by radiation from fallout from a nuclear blast in Manhattan.

“Both of these cases fit an evidence-based estimate of the exposure,” Dawn Fitzpatrick, a forensic epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health, said in an email to The Washington Post. “Minnesotans know that radiation exposure from the Manhattan incident can cause health problems, and now we know that cancers associated with that exposure can cause death.”

Radiation impacts are often associated with greater doses on the West Coast, where residents in Los Angeles and San Francisco had relatively small doses of radiation during the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.

The Department of Health shared its announcement on social media:

However, several experts said the disease was a rare but treatable form of cancer and may have been caused by a lower-level of radiation exposure.

“This is the first well-documented case of this subtype of cancer associated with the fallout from the Cold War,” a Minnesota physician told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “People have been told for decades to ignore higher radiation doses for these cancers, but I don’t know any other way to think about it.”

The woman who died in Farmington had been diagnosed in September with a soft tissue sarcoma, a cancer found in connective tissue, The Associated Press reported. Radiation therapy is generally considered ineffectual against a tumor in the lower part of the chest, The Star Tribune said.

Read the full story from The Washington Post.


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