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Most childhood cancer survivors do not experience bone problems as a result of their therapy. But 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. Osteoporosis is a disease marked by reduced bone mass and bone quality. Bones become weak and are more likely to break.
Bones become weak because the body makes too little new bone tissue or has too much bone loss. Bones can become thinner and more likely to break easily. Osteoporosis can happen in any bone. It most commonly affects the wrist, hips, spine, and leg bones.
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. However, signs and symptoms can include:
It is recommended that childhood cancer survivors at risk for low bone strength because of treatment and other predisposing conditions have at least one bone mineral density test as part of their evaluation for long-term health problems related to cancer and its treatments. The most commonly used bone mineral density test is the dual X-ray absorptiometry, which is also called DXA (or DEXA). 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.
Together does not endorse any branded product mentioned in this article.
Reviewed: June 2018