Bone Up on Bone Health

Though many women are aware that bone health is an important health topic, many breast cancer patients are unaware of the connection between bone health and cancer. Board-certified oncologist Wayne Keiser, MD, offers important information for cancer patients.

How can breast cancer affect women’s bones?

Breast cancer and bone health are closely connected, and the issue is twofold. There is a natural balance between bone loss and regrowth, which normally maintains healthy bones.

First, many women receive hormonal therapy as a treatment for breast cancer. A side effect of this treatment is potential bone loss, which can weaken bones and place women at risk of fracture. Compounding the problem, medications given with chemotherapy can prevent bone regrowth. Therefore either treatment, or both, can upset the natural balance, resulting in increased bone loss and risk of fracture.

Second, as breast cancer advances, it can spread to a woman’s bones. This can also result in very serious problems, such as broken bones, spinal cord injury, and the need for procedures like surgery or radiation.

How common is bone loss from treatment? What about cancer spreading to the bones?

It is estimated that hormonal therapy can result in bone loss occurring as early as one year after the beginning of treatment and that fractures can occur in nearly 5 percent of patients receiving hormonal therapy.

Up to 75 percent of women with advanced breast cancer will experience the spread of cancer to their bones.

What are some of the potential complications of bone loss from treatment or cancer spreading to the bones?

Both of these can weaken bones, which places patients at a higher risk of fractures or severe pain. When cancer spreads to the bone, this can also result in spinal cord injury or the need for procedures like surgery or radiation.

Why are  so many women with breast cancer unaware of this problem?

When we talk about the top health issues women face, breast cancer and bone health typically spring to most people’s minds. Many women, however, don’t realize that these two issues can be connected and that breast cancer can have a potentially serious impact on their bones.

A recent survey revealed that two-thirds of women with advanced breast cancer did not discuss with their physicians treatment options for bone metastases. This is an alarming statistic that points to the need for increased awareness and attention around bone health in patients living with breast cancer.

What is Bone Health in Focus?

Y-ME National Breast Cancer

Organization teamed up with biotechnology company Amgen on a campaign called Bone Health in Focus to educate patients with cancer about the serious affects that cancer can have on their bones. The campaign highlights recent study results in three reports focused specifically on breast cancer, prostate cancer, and multiple myeloma that show the impact of cancer on patients’ bones. The reports feature the results of physician and patient surveys, patients’ personal stories, and tips for speaking with your doctor. The reports are available at www.bonehealthinfocus.com; the reports and the website are also available in Spanish.

Where should people go to learn more about bone health and breast cancer?

If you or a loved one has breast cancer, be sure to talk to your doctor about bone health. Additional tools and resources are available at www.bonehealthinfocus.com.

Women with breast cancer should take action to protect their bone health by speaking with their healthcare providers about the things they can do to improve their bone health, including available treatment options.