Osteoporosis (Bone Loss)
Osteoporosis happens when your bone mass and bone density are below normal. If you have osteoporosis, you have a higher risk of breaking a bone. The most common places for a bone to break are the spine, wrist, and hip, but just about any bone can break since osteoporosis affects most of your skeleton.
Anyone can get osteoporosis or have bone loss, but it's most common in older women. After menopause, women have less estrogen in their bodies and that can cause bone loss. If breast cancer treatment has caused you to go through menopause early, you may be at risk for osteoporosis/bone loss at a younger age.
Risk factors for osteoporosis and bone loss include:
being small and thin
a family history of osteoporosis
having low bone mass (osteopenia)
Certain breast cancer treatments can contribute to osteoporosis and bone loss:
some hormonal therapies:
ovarian shutdown using medication or surgically removing the ovaries
A DEXA scan (an x-ray scan of your bones) measures your bone density. If you have a family history of osteoporosis or are having any of the treatments that contribute to bone loss, talk to your doctor about a DEXA scan to get a baseline measure of your bone density. If it's lower than normal or declines while you're in treatment, there are medications called bisphosphonates you can take to strengthen your bones. Three different bisphosphonates are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prevent and treat osteoporosis:
Fosamax (chemical name: alendronate sodium)
Actonel (chemical name: risedronate)
Boniva (chemical name: ibandronate)
Fosamax and Actonel are available as daily or weekly doses. Boniva can be taken once a month or injected once every 3 months. Together, you and your doctor can decide if one of these medicines is right for you.
There are also lifestyle changes you can make to keep your bones as strong as they can be:
Get enough calcium. People older than 50 should get 1,200 milligrams of calcium each day. Make foods that are high calcium part of your diet:
dairy products such as low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese
calcium-fortified orange juice
dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, collard greens, and bok choy
You also can take a calcium supplement.
Get enough vitamin D. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Your body makes vitamin D when you're in sunlight, but if you're indoors most of the time or live in areas where sunlight is limited, add foods rich in vitamin D to your diet:
vitamin D-fortified milk
herring, salmon, and tuna
You also can take a multi-vitamin.
Do weight-bearing exercise. Exercise makes your bones and muscles stronger and helps slow bone loss. Do weight-bearing exercise 3-4 times a week for maximum bone health benefits:
playing tennis, racquetball, or squash
Understanding bone health
Keeping your bones healthy throughout your life is important no matter your race, ethnicity, or gender. But if you're a woman who's been diagnosed with breast cancer, bone health is especially important for you. Research shows that some breast cancer treatments can lead to bone loss. Plus, women are about twice as likely as men to develop osteoporosis (a disease that means your bones are weak and more likely to break) after age 50.
Read about the basics of bone health, bone health tests, breast cancer treatments that affect bones, and ways to keep your bones strong.
— Last updated on July 27, 2022, 1:53 PM