Bone health and cancer

older man running

How can I take the best care of my bones?

Sometimes cancer or cancer treatments can make bones weaker and more likely to break. Looking after your bones can help you to feel as well as possible. 

Get physically active 

Physical activity is good for bone health:

  • It encourages the production of bone-forming cells.
  • It helps increase bone density.
  • It helps to build muscles, providing more stability for your body.

Weight bearing exercise is the best for bone health. Weight-bearing activities include tennis, football, running, jogging and dancing. Walking is a weight-bearing exercise, but it is important to change your pace occasionally.

It is important to keep exercising regularly to get the greatest benefit. In general, 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercise a day is recommended. 

Your doctor can refer you to a physiotherapist who can advise you on the best exercise for you. If you have cancer in your bones, it is important to check with your doctor before starting an exercise programme.

Get enough vitamin D

Vitamin D is vital for healthy bones. 

The best source of vitamin D is sunlight. Try to expose your hands, face and arms to sunlight for 5 to 15 minutes 2 or 3 times a week during the summer. 

Foods with vitamin D include egg yolks and fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines. Some milk, spreads and breakfast cereals have vitamin D added.

Don’t take any vitamin or mineral supplements unless your doctor advises you to.

Get enough calcium

Calcium is found in dairy products like cheese, milk and yoghurt. It’s also found in foods with vitamins and minerals like fortified cereal and oily fish such as sardines, pilchards and salmon.

It’s also found in green vegetables like spinach and kale. 

  • Try to eat at least three portions of calcium-rich foods every day.
  • A portion could be a matchbox-sized piece of hard cheese, 2 pilchards or sardines with bones, a glass of milk or a pot of yogurt.
  • Look for foods with added calcium, such as orange juice and milk.
  • Choose milky drinks and make meals that include cheese and other calcium-rich foods.
  • Calcium levels decrease as we age, so it may be necessary to increase your intake as you get older, or ask your doctor or dietitian about calcium supplements.

Stay a healthy weight

Being a healthy weight is best for the health of your bones. If you are underweight or overweight you may be more prone to bone loss and fractures. Ask your doctor for advice if you are trying to lose or gain weight. He/she can refer you to a dietician.

Cut down on caffeine

Caffeine may cause you to pass more calcium in your urine. Limit your intake of energy drinks, dark chocolate and colas and do not drink more than 4 cups of tea or coffee per day.

Stop smoking

Smoking damages blood vessels, kills the bone-making cells and upsets the balance of hormones that bones need to stay strong.

Limit alcohol

Too much alcohol can increase your risk of osteoporosis. Limit your risk by avoiding alcohol or staying well within the guideline of no more than 11 standard drinks for women and 17 for men, spread out over the week. A standard drink is ½ pint beer or stout, 1 measure spirits, or a small glass of wine.

Prevent falls

If you feel unsteady on your feet talk to your GP. He or she can refer you to an occupational therapist (OT). The OT can assess your needs and organise equipment like walking aids and grab bars. This equipment can help to keep you and your home safe. 

Some medications can also increase the risk of falls (for example, enzalutamide), so take extra care if this applies to you. 

How to prevent falls – make your home and yourself safer 

Protect yourself at home
  • Avoid slippery surfaces like icy paths and wet/highly polished floors.
  • Get rid of tripping hazards, like loose cords or things lying on the ground, both in the house and the garden.
  • Keep your house and garden well lit.
  • Try not to rush, especially when getting out of your bed or chair – this can make you dizzy. Also take care when going up and down the stairs.
  • Keep the things you use a lot in easy-to-reach places. Store heavy items in lower cupboards.
Tips to avoid falls
  • Don’t be embarrassed to use aids to daily living – they can keep you safe and active.
  • If you need glasses and/or a hearing aid… wear them!
  • Comfortable shoes that provide good support can help to prevent falls.
  • Find out about other gadgets that can make your life safer: reachers, anti-slip soles, hip protectors, etc.
  • Always ask for help with any tasks that you feel you can’t do safely.

For more information

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