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.
Recommended calcium and vitamin D intake
- Adults 19 to 50 years: 1,000 mg calcium/day, 600 IU vitamin D/day
Sources of calcium
- Tofu (calcium fortified)
- Soy milk (calcium fortified)
- Green leafy vegetables (broccoli, mustard greens, kale)
- Chinese cabbage or bok choy
- Beans, legumes
- Sardines, salmon with edible bones
- Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt)
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.