Why are you at Risk of Osteoporosis if you are a Survivor?

Osteoporosis, Bone Thinning
Osteoporosis, Bone Thinning. Art © A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia

There is a link between breast cancer and osteoporosis, which possibly puts breast cancer survivors at greater risk for the disease than those who have not had breast cancer.

Osteoporosis is a condition resulting in bones becoming less dense and more likely to fracture. Fractures from osteoporosis can be painful and cause disabilities. Osteoporosis affects millions of people in the United States, including those with the condition and those at risk because of loss of bone density.

Osteoporosis risks, excluding breast cancer, include:

  • Being thin, or having a small frame
  • Having a history of the disease in your family
  • Being past menopause, especially having had early menopause
  • Absence of menstrual periods
  • Prolonged use of certain medications, such as those to treat lupus, asthma, thyroid deficiencies, and seizures.
  • Low calcium intake
  • Physically inactive
  • Smoking
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol.

Women who have had breast cancer treatment may increase their risk for osteoporosis because estrogen protects our bones, and when the levels of the estrogen hormone are reduced that can cause bone loss. Having chemotherapy, can cause a loss of ovarian function resulting in estrogen levels being significantly reduced. Premenopausal women often go through menopause as a result of breast cancer treatment, and at an earlier than those women who haven’t had breast cancer.

Osteoporosis often can be prevented.

It is known as a silent disease because, if undetected, bone loss can progress for many years without symptoms until a fracture occurs. While building healthy bones in youth helps prevent osteoporosis and fractures later in life, it is never too late to adopt new habits for strong bones.

We can take actions, as survivors, to reduce our risk for getting osteoporosis.

We can also reduce the effects of osteoporosis if diagnosed with the disease.

Follow a Healthy Diet: While we know that good nutrition is important to reducing our risk for breast cancer, it hasn’t been determined which foods may play a part in reducing our risk for getting breast cancer.

When it comes to maintaining healthy bones, the best advice is to eat a balanced diet of foods rich in vitamin D and calcium. Low-fat dairy products, such as dark green, leafy vegetables; and calcium-fortified foods and beverages are excellent choices. Vitamin D helps calcium to be absorbed and bone health. Good sources of vitamin D include egg yolks, saltwater fish, and liver.

Be Sure to Exercise: Your bones need exercise, nothing elaborate, just walk, and climb stairs. It has been proven that taking regular walks may help with preventing bone loss.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Even your bones are harmed by smoking. Did you know that many women who smoke go through menopause earlier? This can reduce levels of the hormone estrogen so important to bone health.

Smokers run the risk of absorbing less calcium through the foods they eat. Heavy alcohol consumption can result in bone loss and fracture.

Get a Bone Density Test: There is a test called a bone mineral density (BMD), which can measure bone density in your body. It is a safe and completely painless procedure that can identify osteoporosis and prevent a possible fracture before it happens as well as predict possible future fractures.

Medication: There is no cure for osteoporosis. However, several medications are available to prevent and treat this disease.

If you have recently finished breast cancer treatment, ask your physician for a prescription for a Bone Density Test. Even if it has been years since you finished treatment, get a Bone Density Test. It is never too late to protect your bone health and prevent fractures.

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