If you are dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis, you have been more than likely been given tools on how to manage your emotional health and certain physical challenges. While selecting the right provider, knowing the type of breast cancer you have, understanding your genetics, clinical trial options if needed, treatment plan, nutrition factors and survivorship may have been discussed with you, bone health may fall off of the radar. The thing is that maintain bone health is one of the most important parts of your journey and should be an integral part of your lifestyle.
Is There a Link Between Bone Health and Breast Cancer?
YES!!! Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become weak and brittle. Those who have osteoporosis are at a higher risk of developing bone fractures. There are many factors that play into osteoporosis risk, including diet, exercise, and genetics.
Hormone levels play a role in osteoporosis risk as well. Estrogen is one such hormone and higher levels have been shown to reduce bone breakdown. Conversely, when estrogen levels decrease, bone breakdown can increase. While some bone breakdown is normal and natural, too much breakdown with not enough rebuilding can result in osteoporosis and puts you at a higher risk for bone fractures.
The breasts and the bones are both estrogen-sensitive organs. More estrogen exposure means less risk for osteoporosis. More estrogen in the blood may also mean an increased risk of breast cancer, specifically in women after menopause which can be induced by breast cancer treatment. Due to the estrogen link, higher bone mineral density (BMD) is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. We know this is a lot digest, but the more equipped with knowledge you are the more you can advocate for your health.
Should Breast Cancer Patients or Breast Cancer Thrivers Worry About Their Bone Health?
While breast cancer itself does not appear to increase a woman’s risk of developing osteoporosis, certain cancer treatments may play a negative role by lowering estrogen levels, and as a result lowering bone density. The reduced levels of estrogen in the body may have a positive impact in their breast cancer treatments however this can result in weakening bones.
Bone health must be a focus when one is undergoing breast cancer treatments. Additionally, according to the medical literature, attention to bone health should be part of breast cancer survivorship care. Regardless of where you are on your breast cancer journey, making incremental lifestyle changes can help you support your bone health. Here are some things you can do include:
- Eating calcium-rich foods, such as broccoli, figs, kale, spinach and fish or taking a calcium supplement
- Participating in weight-bearing exercise appropriate to your fitness level
- Exposing your skin to adequate sunlight to get enough vitamin D
- Enjoying vitamin C- rich foods, such as oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, Brussel sprouts, tomato and cauliflower.
- Maintaining a healthy weight, and taking healthy steps if you become underweight.
Undergoing certain breast cancer treatments can take a toll on your bones. If you are starting treatment or are a breast cancer survivor, giving your bones some extra TLC can help offset any bone weakening that may occur during your care.