How can bone density and breast cancer be related? The two afflictions seem so different that there must be some strange, convoluted, hidden link between the two, right? In this blog, we’ll look at one of our most commonly asked questions: does breast cancer affect bone density? We’ll also explore the utility of the DEXA scan in your fight against breast cancer as you age.
How Does Bone Density Affect Breast Cancer?
The missing link between these two seemingly unrelated issues is a little hormone called estrogen. Estrogen is one of the most important hormones in the female body, contributing to sexual development, menstruation, heart health, mental health, and一 you guessed it一 bone health.
While high bone density isn’t the cause of your breast cancer, it might be a symptom or a risk factor. Since some tumors react to excess estrogen in the body, yours may be producing too much if your bone scan results look abnormal. As you get older, your doctor may recommend that you have regular bone density scans一 these tests can alert them to a hormonal issue before a tumor even develops.
How Does Treatment Affect Bone Density?
If you already have breast cancer and are fighting it with everything you have, your doctor may have warned you about how the treatment will impact your bone density. This seemingly unconnected side effect is a result of fluctuating estrogen levels in the body of a female cancer patient. Some patients even go on to develop osteoporosis after their cancer treatment.
Estrogen Receptor (ER) Positive and Negative
Patients with breast cancer tumors (or any cancer for that matter) that are sensitive to estrogen (ER+) may find that their treatment can lead to a reduction in bone density and overall strength. This is because your treatment plan for an ER+ tumor will likely involve estrogen antagonists along with radiation or chemotherapy that targets your cancer.
ER- tumors will not require you to take estrogen antagonist medication, but you may still lose some bone mass. Why is this the case if your estrogen levels aren’t medically targeted? The answer lies in the destructive nature of chemotherapy. If you and your doctor decide that chemotherapy will be a part of your treatment plan, you’ve likely been told that it can damage your ovaries一 a key producer of natural estrogen. If your ovaries produce less estrogen, your bone health may suffer.
Why Do I Need A Bone Scan For Breast Cancer?
As we mentioned above, bone scans can be helpful in the following areas:
- They can alert your doctor to a problem before a mammogram can.
- Bone scans can help monitor your bone health during treatment.
- They can also highlight hormonal problems unrelated to cancer.
DEXA Scans In Manhattan
Do you need a DEXA (bone) scan or a mammogram scheduled in the Manhattan area? If so, our professional team of radiology experts would be happy to help you. Contact our office to schedule a scan or a consultation.