Can cancer treatment put you at risk for osteoporosis?

September 22, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

Osteoporosis is a condition that develops when the bones thin or weaken. It is the most common type of bone disease.

Those living with certain types of cancer find themselves at an increased risk for osteoporosis, due to the effect cancer has on their body and side effects of certain cancer treatments, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

Patients with bone cancer or other cancers that can spread to the bones — such as breast, prostate or lung cancers — are at an increased risk for osteoporosis and should talk to their doctor about those risks and how to minimize them.

Certain cancer treatments also can increase the risk for the bone disease, including:

  • Hormone therapy (such as aromatase inhibitors or androgen deprivation therapy) for breast or prostate cancers. Hormone therapy can decrease estrogen, a hormone that helps maintain bone density, which could in turn contribute to a loss of bone mass and density.
  • Chemotherapy can shut down a woman’s ovaries, causing early menopause and reduced levels of estrogen. Other treatments, such as the surgical removal of the ovaries or medically shutting down the ovaries, can also decrease levels of estrogen. While decreased estrogen levels can help slow cancer growth, it can also increase the risk for osteoporosis.
  • Some corticosteroids used to help prevent nausea or vomiting can also impact bone health.

Be sure to talk to your physician about osteoporosis and your risk for developing the condition. Your physician may order a DEXA scan or bone density tests to get a better idea of the condition and strength of your bones.

Maintaining a healthy diet and weight can help decrease your risk for osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercises, including weight training, stair climbing and walking, also strengthen bones. Taking vitamin D and a calcium supplement (under your doctor’s supervision) also benefits bone health.

Minimizing your risks for falls will also help. Some tips to help prevent falls include:

  • Decluttering your living space. Make sure heavily used paths in your home are free of tripping hazards such as stray shoes, area rugs or furniture.
  • If you wear eyeglasses, be sure you have the proper prescription.
  • Proper fitting shoes help steady your gait.
  • At Edward-Elmhurst Health, you’ll be cared for by an experienced and compassionate team of cancer experts who work together to meet your individual needs. Learn more.


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