Breast Cancer and Osteoporosis

Posted on October 11th, 2019 by Orthopaedic Specialty Group

While the direct cause of breast cancer is unknown, women experience a higher risk of developing breast cancer as they age. Alongside breast cancer, women who are 60 and older are also at risk for developing osteoporosis. Here is what you need to know about the relationship between breast cancer and osteoporosis, as well as tactics to manage your symptoms. 

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a bone condition in which your bones lose their density and are more prone to fractures. These fractures can result in disability and chronic pain. More than 53 million people in the United States either already have osteoporosis or are at higher risk due to having low bone mass. Other risks for developing osteoporosis include:

  • Low calcium intake
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Excessive alcohol intake or smoking
  • Family history of the disease

The Link Between Osteoporosis and Breast Cancer

Women who currently have breast cancer or are in remission are at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis in the future, especially if there is a family history of the disease. According to a study conducted by the NIH, an increase in fracture risk among breast cancer survivors has been noted.

Due to treatments or surgery, breast cancer survivors may experience a loss of ovarian function, which causes a drop in estrogen levels. Estrogen protects our bone strength, and if a patient experiences a decrease in the hormone, they may also experience bone loss. 

Managing Osteoporosis 

Many patients may not realize they have osteoporosis until they fracture a bone and receive medical treatment. Osteoporosis commonly affects your back, hips, and neck, but it can affect any bone in the body.

 Some of the recognizable signs of osteoporosis include:

  • Loss of height over time
  • A stooped posture
  • A bone that breaks or fractures easier than expected

Osteoporosis is oftentimes preventable with a mix of a healthy diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, and exercise. You can also ask your orthopedist to perform a bone density test, which measures your bone density in various parts of your body. This test can detect bones that may be noticeably weak or at risk for fracture, and can predict the chance for fracture in the future.

Breast cancer survivors should ask their doctor whether they might be a candidate for a bone density test.

Treatment Options

You cannot reverse osteoporosis once it develops, but you can ease its symptoms. A balanced, healthy diet is important. Consider these factors as well:

  • Be sure to take in enough Vitamin D and Calcium.
  • Avoid foods high in phosphorus, such as red meat, as this promotes bone loss.
  • Limite alcohol and coffee intake.

Some medications have been found to help promote bone strength and easy symptoms of osteoporosis. For more information about bone density testing or treatment for osteoporosis, contact one of our experienced orthopedists at Orthopaedic Speciality Group today.