What is bone loss?
Bone loss in a loss in bone density that can cause bones to be weaker or break more easily. This is usually diagnosed with a Dexa scan or bone density scan, since there are usually no symptoms of bone loss. All men are at risk for fractures as they age, but this risk is compounded when living with a prostate cancer diagnosis.
What causes bone loss?
Many men experience bone related problems as a result of prostate cancer or its treatment. In advanced prostate cancer, the most common site of metastases (spread outside the prostate) is to the bone, potentially weakening the bone and causing pain.
In addition, hormone therapy in particular has bone loss, fracture, or joint pains as common side effects. Because hormone therapy works by blocking the production of testosterone, which plays a crucial role in keeping bones strong, hormone therapy often results in loss of bone density. In addition, a man on hormone therapy usually takes longer to recover from a bone fracture than other men.
Radiation and chemotherapy can also decrease bone strength.
How can I avoid bone loss?
Men who have advanced prostate cancer or are starting hormone therapy should talk to their doctor about how to plan for and manage bone loss. Your doctor should work with you to proactively keep an eye on your bone health. Sometimes hormone therapies are paired with medicines that work to stop the breakdown of bone and help build bone back up. These medications, called bisphosphonates, can prevent the thinning of bone and help make them stronger:
- Fosamax (alendronate) and Actonel (risendronate) are both taken orally
- Zometa (zolendronic acid) is given intravenously
If you know that you are at risk for bone loss, there are also lifestyle changes you can take:
- Strive for a healthy diet, including calcium and vitamin D
- Do weight bearing exercises
- Avoid tobacco and excessive alcohol
Where can I learn more about bone loss?
We have resources on maintaining bone health during prostate cancer, including our brochure Prostate Cancer and Bone Health.
You can also click here to listen to our webinar, Prostate Cancer and Bone Health featuring Dr. Alicia Morgans of Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center