Treatments used for breast cancer can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis.
This page discusses how this might happen and provides information on the effects of chemotherapy, Tamoxifen and Aromatase inhibitors on bone. There is also information on the benefits of diet and weight bearing exercise to help with bone strength if you also are being treated for breast cancer.
Women who have had breast cancer may be at increased risk of developing osteoporosis: the loss of bone strength, making bones more fragile and prone to fracture.
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you should ask your doctor to check your bone health, especially if you have other risk factors for osteoporosis such as a family history, low calcium intake and/or low vitamin D levels.
Two measures of bone health are important to consider:
Women with breast cancer have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis because of the treatments used in breast cancer. Treatments can impact directly on oestrogen levels (vital for bone strength), and may also cause ovarian failure in premenopausal women, resulting in a further significant fall in oestrogen and a premature/early menopause.
Link to osteoporosis:
Impact in postmenopausal women: Chemotherapy given to postmenopausal women does result in loss of bone density.
Link to osteoporosis:
Impact in postmenopausal women: Postmenopausal women with breast cancer who take Tamoxifen:
Aromatase inhibitors are prescribed in Australia for postmenopausal women whose breast cancer has spread beyond the breast and lymph nodes. These drugs work by virtually suppressing all oestrogen production in the body.
Studies using one of these drugs known as anastrozole (sold as Arimidex), has shown a loss of bone density at the spine and hip. This effect seems to be more significant in women who are newly menopausal. There is also a very slightly increased risk of fracture for women taking this medication, although further research is needed in this area.
If you have breast cancer and you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, there are specific therapies available, which can treat this condition and your doctor can advise you. It will be important to develop or maintain an exercise plan, which includes weight bearing exercise, and to ensure there is adequate calcium in your diet.
For more information on breast cancer & bone health go to Breast Cancer Network Australia.
** Currently under review **
This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at December 2013.