Top 5 Things Cancer Survivors Need to Know About Osteoporosis


Most people generally think of osteoporosis as a disease for the elderly. However, cancer survivors are just as susceptible to this disease, no matter what their age might be. Here we have the Top 5 things cancer survivors should know about osteoporosis.

1. Who is at risk? Treatment for some cancers, such as breast or prostate cancer, can include blocking or eliminating certain hormones in your body. Blocking sex hormones (testosterone orestrogen) helps to slow the growth of cancer cells. However, sex hormones also protect your bones. If your body is deprived of these hormones, osteoporosis can develop. If you received, or will receive this type of treatment, talk with your health care provider about things that can be done to prevent or minimize bone loss.

2. What can I do about it? Start reducing the risk factors for osteoporosis. Factors that can lead to osteoporosis include smoking and drinking, excessive amounts of caffeine, not exercising and a lack of vitamin D and calcium in your diet. Certain medications that are taken for a long period of time can lead to a lack of bone density. Health problems, like diabetes, hyperthyroidism and rheumatoid arthritis can be factors as well.

3. Is there a test for osteoporosis? Yes, there is a test that you can take to find out if you have it. The test is called DEXA (dual-energy x-ray absorptiomerty) and is commonly referred to as a “bone density” test. DEXA is an x-ray which scans your bones to measure bone mineral density. This test should be taken every few years to check whether your bone density has changed.

4. Should young adult survivors be concerned?
If your cancer treatment involved slowing or blocking the flow of certain hormones, then you could be at risk. However, there is no better time than now to begin reducing the risk factors and strengthening your bones.

5. How do I strengthen my bones?
There are several easy ways you can strengthen your bones everyday! Maintain a healthy weight by exercising and stretching daily. Include lots of calcium, vitamin K and vitamin D in your diet. These super foods are great for your bones: milk, yogurt, cheese, soy, salmon, greens, nuts and seeds, and foods that are labeled as “fortified.” Stop smoking and drinking, and limit your caffeine intake. And finally, avoid falls which can cause fractures and could take longer to heal, causing further disability. You can prevent accidents by installing handrails, avoiding slippery floors, and keeping a clean and uncluttered space.

Surviving cancer is difficult enough without having to suffer from osteoporosis. LIVESTRONG is here to help. We have a variety of programs that offer assistance, such as our Cancer Transitions and LIVESTRONG at the YMCA, both of which offer ways to help you reach your health and wellness goals. If you are a cancer survivor suffering from osteoporosis, contact our Cancer Navigation Center by calling 1-855-220-7777 or go online to fill out our Request For Help form so we can connect you to the programs that are right for you.


  1. Cori_K says:

    This is also a concern for anyone who was on steroids (prednisone, etc.) as part of their treatment plan. Steroids can adversely affect bone density, as well as causing things like avascular necrosis in joints and bones. This is where I am over 20 years post-treatment–after massive doses of prednisone during treatment, I have had a bad run with osteopenia, AVN, and bone infarcts. The AVN started right after treatment which sucked at 10 years old), but the infarcts are a relatively recent manifestation.

    It might be a good idea to update this to include blood cancers on this list (particularly those treated with bone marrow/stem cell transplants), especially those treated before oncologists refined how steroids are used in treatment. There are other treatment risk factors, and those might be helpful to include as well.

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