November 25, 2022
Those who are undergoing cancer treatment are not only affected emotionally and physically but also suffer some long-term side effects from the treatment. Chemotherapy, steroid medications, and hormonal therapies used to destroy cancerous cells can sometimes have unwelcome side effects. One common after effect is accelerated bone loss, potentially leading to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is the most common type of bone disorder experienced by cancer survivors. It happens when the body breaks down more bone tissue than it creates, leading to bones becoming thin & brittle. The most common types of cancer that increase the risk of osteoporosis are as follows:
Multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer)
Osteoporosis may also occur as a side effect of medications and radiation therapies used in treating cancer. Those who have gone through bone cancer treatment are also at a greater risk of suffering from osteoporosis. Patients who take immunosuppressive medicines like methotrexate, steroid medications like prednisone and cortisone, or androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) are at increased risk of osteoporosis.
Early detection of bone loss is crucial to getting checked and starting medication as soon as possible. Hence it is important to watch out for possible symptoms. The common symptoms of bone loss are as follows:
Pain in the back, joints, or jaw
Stiffness in the back or joints
Swelling or infection in the jaw
Stooped posture or hunched upper back
Breaking bones after a minor injury or fall
It is difficult for people suffering from cancer to manage the side effects of multiple medications. Hence, it is crucial to focus on preventative measures to prevent severe side effects like osteoporosis.
Here are 6 healthy habits to maintain bone health after cancer treatment:
Being underweight can put cancer patients at an increased risk of osteoporosis. A body mass index (BMI) less than 18.5 has a negative impact on bone density. Eat nutrient-dense foods and include more fruits and vegetables in your diet. If you are underweight, have enough healthy protein like lean meat or beans to gain a healthy weight. Before changing your diet, be sure to speak with your physician.
An adult requires at least 1000 to 1200 mg of calcium every day to keep bones healthy. Although calcium supplements are available, it is best to get the required calcium from food. Also, incorporate adequate vitamin D into your diet to help calcium absorption in the body.
Some calcium and vitamin D-rich foods that you can add to your diet are as follows:
Low-fat dairy foods such as milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.
Dark green, leafy vegetables like Bok choy, broccoli collard greens, kale, and turnip greens
Canned fish like sardines and salmon
Fatty fish such as catfish, eel, mackerel, and tuna
When caught early, osteoporosis can be treated with medications, exercise, and rest. Therefore, patients undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy should get bone density tests done at regular intervals. It is recommended to get the test done once before starting the treatment, and every one to two years after that. This process is done with a special X-ray that measures calcium density and the presence of other minerals in your bones. Always check with your doctor to know how often you should get a bone density test done, depending on your medical condition.
Although cancer treatment and medications weaken the body, it is wise to do light exercise whenever your health permits. Exercise or physical activities strengthen the bones and make them denser over time. Even simple walking or climbing stairs can impact your physical health by strengthening your muscles as well as your bones.
Also, if you have posture-related issues, Tai Chi is a great option. It improves your posture as well as your balance, which decreases the likelihood of falls and fractures.
Several studies have revealed that smoking is a primary lifestyle risk factor for bone loss and fractures. Smoking and drinking excessive alcohol can reduce bone mass and bone mineral density (BMD), weakening your bones and making them more susceptible to fractures. Also, speak to your healthcare provider about the side effects caused by alcohol post-chemotherapy.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that slowly develops over time and is difficult to identify in its early stages. Knowing that you are at increased risk of developing bone problems, people suffering from cancer should never skip their medication, add nutritional supplements to their diet as per doctor’s recommendation and get tests done to prevent it from progressing. Check with your doctor if you need periodic bone mineral density tests to determine if you have normal bone mass, low bone mass (pre-osteoporosis), or osteoporosis. Early detection and treatment can help fight this condition more efficiently. Contact Advanced Cancer Treatment Centers to receive the most effective cancer treatment and additional medical care.