DEXA Scan after Breast Cancer & DIEP flap
It is important for many breast cancer patients to monitor their bone density health. This is a segment of a comprehensive article from the National Institute of Health.
Women who have had breast cancer treatment may be at increased risk for osteoporosis and fracture. Estrogen has a protective effect on bone, and reduced levels of the hormone trigger bone loss. Because of treatment medications or surgery, many breast cancer survivors experience a loss of ovarian function and, consequently, a drop in estrogen levels. Women who were premenopausal before their cancer treatment may go through menopause earlier than those who have not had breast cancer.
Results from the NIH-supported Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study (WHI-OS) found an increase in fracture risk among breast cancer survivors.
I recently had a DEXA scan and I was pleased with my results. Let me explain why.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time in 2014. Both times the diagnosis was estrogen receptor positive, ER+. I am now on Anastrozole, AI, which suppresses those estrogen hormones to keep the cancer at bay. That’s the good news. The “not so good news”, the side effect of AI is possible depletion of bone density. Added to that I have a family history of osteoporosis. I have a double whammy there! OUCH!
Luckily, I have a great health care team who encourages and monitors my bone health. I had a dexa scan the year of my second diagnosis in 2014. It revealed osteoporosis in my lumbar, lower back, area. The results of the DEXA scan of the hip area revealed osteopenia. My latest scan in early September of 2017 revealed osteopenia of both areas. That improvement is the good news! I believe this can be attributed to a few things based on the recommendations from my health care team.
Improvement in Bone Health
They prescribe Prolia shots for me twice a year. Prolia is a simple subcutaneous, just under the skin, injection I receive. Apparently, it’s doing its job.
In addition to the Prolia injections, I take a calcium supplement, eat lots of fish, drink very little alcohol (one glass of wine or beer a week, if that), and my diet includes those all-important calcium-fortified foods and beverages.
One of the fun things I do to help with bone density is my exercise routine. I have always been encouraged by my health care team to do weight bearing exercise such as light weights and walking to increase bone density. I love to take morning walks. The real bonus has been my recent enrollment in the Livestrong program at the YMCA. There, the trained staff shows us multiple exercises that are weight baring since many of the participants and cancer survivors are also watching their bone health.
My advice, based on my personal experience: If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, talk to your health care team about your bone health and what you can do to maintain it. It’s easy to “blame” breast cancer and the side effects of treatment and medication for our aches and pains. It is true, there are side effects and I won’t deny that. But we must also remember that with or without breast cancer and medication, we continue to age. With age, comes bone depletion. I find that when I sit around too much, I get those aches and pains. When I get to the gym and keep active, I have less aches and pains and just feel stronger and more confident.
Keep active, eat healthy, and monitor your bone health! Oh, did I mention dancing is also a great bone health activity? How do you maintain your bone health? I’d love to hear from you and share ideas.