Cancer survivors are often at an increased risk of developing osteopenia (mild bone degeneration) or osteoporosis (severe bone loss) as a result of treatment.
Radiation and chemotherapy drugs can cause bones to weaken, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
Certain breast cancer treatments block estrogen formation, which acts as a protective barrier for bones, and can lead to early menopause and increased risk of developing osteopenia or osteoporosis. Hormone therapy for testosterone suppression in prostate cancer patients has a similar effect on bones.
At City of Hope, we take bone density (DEXA) scans to assess bone strength as a baseline prior to starting therapy, and repeat the scans every one to two years. Additionally, we test vitamin D levels annually to assess bone health.
Proper nutrition and physical activity
Proper nutrition and physical activity can help protect your bones, including increasing your calcium and vitamin D intake. Before supplementing your diet with calcium and vitamin D, please consult your physician, as the dosage may vary depending on what type of treatment you've had.
Like muscles, bones become stronger with regular exercise. Try to get 30 minutes of exercise a day, including strength-building and weight-bearing exercises like walking, climbing stairs, lifting weights and dancing.