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Certain treatments for childhood cancer may cause a loss of bone strength.
This loss is especially concerning because bones normally grow and become heavier during childhood and adolescence.
Loss of bone strength may result in a condition called osteoporosis later in life.
Childhood cancer survivors can take steps to help prevent bone strength loss.
Bones become weak because the body makes too little new bone tissue or has too much bone loss. Bones can become thinner. They are more likely to break easily.
Osteoporosis can happen in any bone. It most commonly affects the wrist, hips, spine, and leg bones. Sometimes osteoporosis is called “low bone mineral density.”
For most people, bone mass peaks during their 20s. After that time, people begin to lose bone. Some childhood cancer patients can begin losing bone mass earlier because of certain treatments.
Osteoporosis is sometimes called a “silent” disease. It can exist for years without any obvious signs or symptoms.
Some signs and symptoms of osteoporosis may include:
Childhood cancer survivors should have annual checkups.
Share a copy of your Survivorship Care Plan with your physician. The plan includes details about your cancer treatment and information about health problems that may occur because of your treatment.
If you are at risk, your provider will likely recommend a baseline bone density scan when you begin long-term follow-up care.
The most commonly used bone density test is the dual X-ray absorptiometry, which is also called DXA. This test uses special X-ray techniques to measure bone thickness and the patient’s risk of breaking a bone.
Based on the results, the doctor can advise about ways to improve bone strength and when to have follow-up studies.
People can take action to lower the risk of osteoporosis.
For more information, visit the Children’s Oncology Group’s Keeping Your Bones Healthy Health Link.
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Reviewed: June 2020