Checking bone health – DEXA scans

Doctor showing man an x-ray

A DEXA scan can check the strength of your bones and your risk of breaking a bone. It uses a very low-dose X-ray to measure the thickness (density) of your bones. 

A DEXA scan is often done before you start any cancer treatments that may increase your risk of bone loss. You may also have scans during and after your cancer treatment.

It is a simple, painless procedure. You will be asked to lie down on a table for about 15 minutes while your spine and hips are scanned.

What do the results of my DEXA scan mean?

The result of your DEXA scan will be a special number called a T-score:

  • If your T-score is between 0 and -1: This means you have normal bone density
  • If your T-score is between -1 and -2.5: You have a condition called osteopenia. This means the bones have become slightly less dense and you are at risk of developing osteoporosis.
  • If your T-score is greater than -2.5: You have osteoporosis. This means your bones have become thin and porous (full of tiny holes).

A diagnosis of osteopenia or osteoporosis means that you must start looking after your bones, as you are at increased risk of breaking a bone (fracture). You may also need to start taking special supplements or bone-strengthening drugs. If you are prescribed bone-strengthening drugs, your doctor will probably send you for a DEXA scan every 2 years.

For more information

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