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Bone health - Cancer

Did you know that some breast cancer treatments can reduce your bone mineral density?
Bone mineral density, or bone density, is a term that refers to the thickness and strength of bone. As oestrogen helps to protect bones, treatments that reduce oestrogen, or stop it from working, can reduce bone density and increase your risk of bone fractures.
Not all breast cancer treatments reduce bone density. The treatments that are known to affect bone density include:
  • Hormone therapies, including tamoxifen, Arimidex, Femara and Aromasin
  • Chemotherapy when it triggers menopause in younger women. #cancer #iamstillawoman #bones #health

Checking your bone density

If you are currently on, or about to begin, one of the above treatments it is a good idea to speak with your doctor about your bone health. It’s important to discuss your bone health early on, as most women with lowered bone density do not experience any symptoms. In fact, most women don’t realise their bone density is low until they fracture a bone.
To check your bone density, your doctor may refer you for a bone mineral density test, which is sometimes called a DXA or DEXA test. This test is painless. It measures bone density at the hip and spine using low-dosage X-rays. It is quite different from the bone scans that you may have as part of your breast cancer diagnosis or follow-up.
The cost of a bone mineral density test ranges from $85 to $160. Unfortunately, there is currently no Medicare rebate available for women who require a bone mineral density test because of their breast cancer treatment. However, you may be eligible for a Medicare rebate if you:
  • are 70 years or older
  • have a presumed diagnosis of osteoporosis after experiencing one or more bone fractures after minimal trauma
  • have experienced menopause for more than six months before the age of 45
  • require diagnosis and monitoring of a variety of health conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis
  • require a test 12 months after a significant change in treatment for low bone mineral density.
Some clinics will bulk-bill women who are eligible for a Medicare rebate. This means that you should not have an out-of-pocket cost. You can ask your doctor to refer you to a bulk-billing imaging clinic or to write ‘please bulk-bill’ on the referral form.


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