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Osteoporosis is a disease that gradually weakens bones, causing them to become brittle and prone to fractures. Osteoporosis and its associated fractures can rob you of your mobility and your independence. It is estimated that at age 50, a woman has nearly a 40 percent chance of developing an osteoporotic fracture during her remaining lifetime. A woman’s lifetime risk of hip fracture alone is equal to the combined risk of developing breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer — and up to 20 percent more women who suffer hip fractures die within one year of the fracture than those of a similar age who haven’t suffered a hip fracture.

Quick Facts About Osteoporosis

  • 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 5 men over 50 will experience fractures resulting from osteoporosis

  • 85% of wrist fractures occur in women

  • The combined lifetime risk for hip, forearm and vertebral fractures coming to clinical attention is around 40%, equivalent to the risk for cardiovascular disease

  • In white women, the lifetime risk of hip fracture is 1 in 6, compared with a 1 in 9 risk of a diagnosis of breast cancer

  • In women over 45 osteoporosis accounts for more days spent in hospital than many other diseases, including diabetes, heart attack and breast cancer.

  • Hip fractures can kill you. Hip fractures have a reported morbidity rate up to 24% in the first year after a hip fracture and a greater risk of dying may persist for at least 5 years afterwards

  • 40% of hip fracture survivors are unable to walk independently and 60% will still require assistance one year later. Because of these losses, one third of those who suffer a hip fracture are totally dependent or in a nursing home in the year following a hip fracture.

If you think you may be at risk for osteoporosis, ask your doctor if a bone density measurement will be of value to you. Many women who are postmenopausal are at risk of osteoporosis. The presence of any one of these factors can add to your risk:

  • Caucasian race or Asian ethnicity
  • Thin or small build
  • Family history of osteoporosis or osteoporotic fracture
  • Early menopause (before age 45)
  • Smoking
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Chronic use of certain medications such as steroids, excessive thyroid hormone, and certain anticonvulsants
  • Excessive alcohol use

Bone Density Scan

Early detection using bone density measurement is the best way to protect yourself from the potentially debilitating effects of osteoporosis.

How long does a measurement take?

Depending on the equipment, a measurement takes from 5 to 20 minutes. You will be asked to be very still during that time.

How much radiation will I be exposed to?

You will be exposed to very little radiation — in fact, in most cases, less than a standard chest X-ray. As with any medical procedure, be sure to tell your doctor if you are pregnant.

What should I wear?

Wear comfortable clothing, preferably something without metal buttons, buckles, or zippers.

Is a bone density measurement the same as a bone scan?

A bone scan, which may help a doctor to identify certain bone abnormalities such as infection, inflammation, and cancer, requires an injection of radioactive material. A bone density measurement requires no special preparation,
medication, or injection.

NOTE: You may have none of these risk factors and still be at risk of developing osteoporosis. Some authorities believe that the presence of any of these factors increases the risk of osteoporosis. However, even if you have none of these factors, you may still have osteoporosis — a bone density measurement can provide the information your doctor needs to clearly tell for sure.