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Should I be nervous about bone density test?

purplecat Member Posts: 221
edited February 2022 in Bone Health and Bone Loss

My doctor has ordered a bone density test. It sounds about as easy as getting an X ray, so I'm not worried about the process, just the possible results. But I'm not worried about osteoporosis either. I'm afraid that somehow the test is going to uncover an irregularity that will lead down a bunny trail of further testing due to suspicion that the cancer has spread to my bones. I don't have any particular reason to think I have cancer in my bones at this time except some aches and pains that are more likely due to Letrozole. But I have had some totally routine testing come up with nasty incidental findings lately, and just want to know before going in if there is any possibility I will get one of those traumatic phone calls telling me that, surprise, something unexpected was uncovered in my results and lab/imaging will be calling me to schedule a test and to take the first available, kicking off weeks and months of uncertainty and tests and treatment and recovery. Does that ever happen with bone density tests?


  • ruthbru
    ruthbru Member Posts: 46,691

    The test is 100% easy & non-invasive, and you really do want/need to know what your bone density is. I am at the age where almost all my friends have had DEXA scans, and none have them have found out anything unrelated to their bone density coming out of a test, although I suppose it's possible.

  • ctmbsikia
    ctmbsikia Member Posts: 749

    I've had 2 so far and to my knowledge as being a low dose x ray, and reading my results, no where on there is there even a place for other incidental findings. I don't think you need to be nervous at all. Well, other than possibly getting diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis.

  • alicebastable
    alicebastable Member Posts: 1,933

    It takes about five minutes or less, checks one part of the spine and one hip, and ONLY for bone density. If you think you have bone mets, talk to your MO about getting the other kind of bone scan.

  • purplecat
    purplecat Member Posts: 221

    Thanks, all. No, no reason to suspect bone mets, just wanting to know all possible outcomes of this test. I'm heading in for a hysterectomy seven months after getting blindsided by the results of what was supposed to be a couple of simple tests to see if I was in menopause, so my scanxiety is kinda out of control.

  • 2019whatayear
    2019whatayear Member Posts: 463

    are we the same person? This was my exact thought process when I had the Dexa scan. I got the scan at 8am on a Tuesday and the MO office was calling me at 10 am the same day wanting to schedule a follow up - my head almost literally exploded - and I blurted out - is this Cancer thing? I need to know now. Nurse was like -ah no - just osteopenia - doctor wants to talk about that -

    I have the worst scan anxiety ! I was so surprised of all the tests - this one I got the fastest results ever. So if you get a call after the test don’t assume the worst - if I would have know I could get a call so fast after the bone density test, I wouldn’t have freaked out

    Also it only takes like 5 minutes for the scan :-)

  • bcincolorado
    bcincolorado Member Posts: 4,684

    Meds can cause bone loss (I had it) and my MO put me on Prolia after my DEXA and they did it her office. It did require pre-auth and she had to send something to the insurance for it. She also had me increase the calcium I take each day. I did that for about 2 years and after I stopped Femara I think I had one more Prolia shot and now have not had another at this point.

    Of all the medical tests this is the easies one (DEXA).

  • ruthbru
    ruthbru Member Posts: 46,691

    There's no prep, no pain, and you don't even have to take off your clothes!

  • spookiesmom
    spookiesmom Member Posts: 8,148

    Well, getting OFF the table can be painful😂😂

  • alicebastable
    alicebastable Member Posts: 1,933

    Spookiesmom, that's one of the hardest parts of ANY test for me!

  • Member Posts: 1,434

    Spookiesmom and AliceBastable, you mean it's not just me?

    Purplecat, when is your BMD test?

  • ajminn3
    ajminn3 Member Posts: 284

    PurpleCat- I’m going in for my first DEXA after starting OS/AI in the last month to get a baseline and have the same worries. Dr. Google isn’t helping my anxiety. I have no reason beyond some joint pain and stiffness that’s likely from my treatment, but the worry is still there

  • minustwo
    minustwo Member Posts: 12,989

    For a DEXA scan - truly there is no pain. Not even any discomfort. It takes only a few minutes. DEXA is a "type of X-ray that measures your bone mineral density and bone loss." And it's not done to see or diagnose cancer or mets - so no anxiety needed on that front.

    It's to check for osteopenia or osteoporosis. We all lose bone density as we age. Unfortunately cancer treatments can accelerate that loss of density. There are a number of easy non-invasive treatments available and none of us wants to be sidelined with a broken hip.

    Trust me - this is easier than a flu shot. Easier than getting a hair cut. Easier than making dinner.

  • ruthbru
    ruthbru Member Posts: 46,691

    Much easier than making dinner!!!!

  • edj3
    edj3 Member Posts: 1,579

    Chiming in to say it's a real snoozer of a test. My DEXA scan looked at both hips and my spine so I had three values listed. But you do want to know about osteopenia or osteoporosis so that you can treat it.

    I'm very athletic and eat super healthy and much to my surprise (and with no family history) I have osteoporosis. I've now had two bones break, one before that dx and one after. So yeah, my endocrinologist and I are being super aggressive with the treatment. As I told him, my number 1 goal is to be able to run without my bones breaking. I don't think that's an unreasonable goal.

  • purplecat
    purplecat Member Posts: 221

    Thanks, everyone! It seems almost like something to look forward to at this point: a noninvasive test where no one is touching me, I don't even need to remove any clothes, and there's no chance of hearing I may have cancer!

  • lillyishere
    lillyishere Member Posts: 769

    PurpleCat, it is a new normal for us to worry for every test and scan we get once we are diagnosed with C. I feel the same way. From, I don't care about tests because I'm healthy to a "new me" on worry of what the test will find. I have learned that the radiologist will only talk to you about his part of the job, in this case your bone density. They don't check other things so rest assure that you won't hear anything unusual. If you are worried about bone density, there are so many treatments and supplements that can take care of it and you shouldn't worry about this part either. I requested my DEXA a month once I started Letrozole and 2 months in Lupron. My bone density came back normal. I wish yours too.

  • tmh0921
    tmh0921 Member Posts: 518

    I had this same question after finding out my oncologist had scheduled me for a bone density scan earlier this month. I have scanxiety as well, and was worried they'd find something like bone mets too ( no reason to suspect bone mets, but my brain went down that rabbit hole). The scan was the easiest test I've had to date. It did find that I have low bone density (I'm on an AI + Ovarian Suppression, so not surprised). I'll be taking Prolia every 6 moths to strengthen my bones, but I can handle that :)

  • msphil
    msphil Member Posts: 184

    hello i get bone density scan yearly had one during and after treatments all was good didnt even see osteoporosis. Take deep breath and take care. msphil idc stage2 0\3 nodes 3 mo chemo before and after Lmast then got married we were planning at diagnosis. Then 7wks rads and then our honeymoon. Had reconstruction but body rejected it and expander removed just wear prothesis. .

  • Onlyme64
    Onlyme64 Member Posts: 12

    I just went for my second bone density test as well.. Yes, I was scared out of my mind, what if they find something. I told all my doctors every ache and pain I get they don't seem worried. but of course, waiting for test results is nerve racking....

    Yes, I also did Dr. Google and got confused between bone scan and density test.

    I thought that if the bone density came back abnormal the doc with do further test to determine why the bones are week,.. I am on anastrozole and just finished my last zometa treatment.. Which I was told that studies have shown that zometa does help prevent bone mets...

    My husband was so supportive during all this and he just does not really realize or understand on waiting for test results to come back makes me very nervous.... he just listens and does not make and comments.

  • comingtoterms
    comingtoterms Member Posts: 52


    Just found this thread - I know it's rather old, but I'd like to ask a question.

    I just had my second DEXA. The first was done in 2019 and showed Osteopenia. Now, three years later, I have Osteoperosis. I'm pretty upset, seeing that everything I've read says that Calcium and Vitamin D in pill form are ineffective so I haven't been taking anything.

    Plus: I haven't had a bone scan or PET scan ever!

    So now I have advocated for myself to have one done. Since my Breast Cancer diagnosis in 2009, I've been diagnosed with Bladder Cancer (completely by accident and with no symptoms) and a large pre-cancer in my colon!

    Because of that, I'm pretty much always waiting for another shoe to drop and am completely paranoid about bone mets.

    Any words of wisdom?


  • moth
    moth Member Posts: 3,293

    comingtoterms, you should be under the care of an endocrinologist. You need a Vitamin D test & recommendations for supplementation from your health professional. I don't understand why you think those are not effective - they very much are. I was low Vit D when dx'.d. My endocrinologist prescribed me a dosage of oral Vitamin D & we retested in 3 & 6 months and my levels were then fine. I still get them monitored & recently had my Vitamin D dosage adjusted.

    You should also be getting a referral to kinesiology or physio to develop a bone strengthening exercise program.

    The relationship between osteoporosis and bone metastasis is complicated. I'd say do not worry about things that haven't happened. Deal with the known health issues, stay vigilant & hope for the best. Also, in the absence of symptoms, scans such as bone scans, PET or CT are not recommended. If you have ongoing symptoms, you should report to your dr and they should be investigated but with no symptoms, there is no need for scans.

  • alicebastable
    alicebastable Member Posts: 1,933

    comingtoterms, Just wanted to say hello from one multiple cancer person to another (or as I usually call it, the Cancer Crap Magnet Club). I get CT scans due to the kidney cancer I had, and twice those have led to a PET scan (and once a biopsy). I had one bone scan after the breast cancer and kidney cancer were found within a month of each other - I think my MO was being extra thorough just in case. But I don't think either of those are regular scans for low stage breast cancer - or my MO just isn't ordinarily into lots of scans. From what I've seen, progressing from osteopenia to osteoporosis isn't all that uncommon. When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, my MO put me on vitamin D right away because mine was low-ish on the blood counts. Did you take any aromatose inhibitors after you had breast cancer? I think most doctors prescribe Prolia because they weaken bones. I'm curious what your doctor will say about getting the bone scan. Mine has implied that there's not a connection between cancer and bone strength, but I never asked for details. Good luck.

  • olma61
    olma61 Member Posts: 1,014

    I do have bone mets and I just had a DEXA scan. I wondered if the mets would impact the findings, I was told no.

    Indeed, it is very quick and does not detect any anomalies, it only measures the bone mineral density.

    My result was “NORMAL”.

  • comingtoterms
    comingtoterms Member Posts: 52

    Thanks for your helpful responses, Ladies.

    Neither my Primary nor my Onc have ever spoken to me about Calcium Supplements/Vit D. I'm not blaming anyone for that. It's simply a fact.

    My Dexa scan was done through my Rheumatologist. And she ordered the Bone Scan for me because of ongoing lower back and knee pain.

    Because of my other 'accidental' diagnosis, I readilyadmit to being paranoid!

    I had never thought of seeing an Endocrinologist and wonder what support I can expect to receive from them.

    Thank you!

  • minustwo
    minustwo Member Posts: 12,989

    I get wonderful support from my endocrinologist. Much more knowledgeable than either of my MOs or my GYN - who had been ordering DEXA scans for years.

    But yes - talk to your doc & get tested for Calcium & Vit D3 as soon as possible. it's even more important since you live in the Northern climes. These are both over the counter - so fairly easy.