Every morning you wake up, get out of bed and start your day. You take that first step, probably towards the bathroom and it doesn’t really cross your mind that your bones may not work. Maybe because you can’t really see your bones, you take them for granted. What do you really know about your bones?
Like muscle, bone is living tissue. Your skeleton serves two important purposes, a structural function, providing mobility, support and protection for your body, and a reservoir function as the storehouse for essential minerals, calcium and phosphorous.
Throughout your life there is a constant process of bone loss and bone rebuilding. This rebuilding process is vital for keeping your bones healthy, and many things impact it. You’re more prone to bone loss if your diet is low in calcium and vitamin D. Lack of activity and exercise can weaken bones. You know you shouldn’t be smoking for a lot of other reasons, but cigarettes also weaken your bones. And we know that many love your wine and cocktails, but too much alcohol consumption can cause bone loss and broken bones. Also, estrogen is a major factor in keeping the bone loss and rebuilding process in balance as when estrogen is compromised, you lose more bone that should be being replaced.
All of these factors can cause osteoporosis, a progressive disease that lowers the density of bones. It’s a serious disease that can lead to dangerous fractures.
Women who have had or are in treatment for breast cancer are at a 15% increased risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures. Certain breast cancer treatments can speed up bone loss or cause you to lose more bone than you normally would. Women in treatment for breast cancer are also at risk for other serious bone problems including pain, the need for surgery to bones, the need for radiation treatments to the bone, and spinal cord compression. If chemotherapy pushes your body into menopause, bone loss may begin while you’re still having cancer treatment and continue after treatment is done.
Breast surgical oncologist Dr. Monique Gary says, “We know that Black women are more likely to get diagnosed with breast cancer at a later stage, and that can include metastases to our bones. But what does the research really say about our bone disease, and more importantly our bone health? Very little.”
No one knows about bone health better than breast cancer metathriver, Shonte’ Drakeford. Shonte’ was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at age 31, after being dismissed by doctors for 5 years. She is a nurse practitioner so is very aware of her body and her health. She began exhibiting symptoms of breast cancer at age 25 but doctors didn’t take her seriously telling her she was “too young” for a costly mammogram. She was finally taken seriously at age 31 as they diagnosed cancer in her ribs, hip, back, and lungs. Her hip was in such disrepair, her doctor stopped her from all activity and put her on crutches for 5 months. Her activities were restricted for two years.
“I have a lot of bone mets, so my bones are fragile,” said Shonte’. She worked hard to get back to her active lifestyle. She began taking XGEVA®,a Bone-Targeting Agent (BTA) that has been shown to help prevent serious bone problems in people with cancer. “I’m a really active person, running, snowboarding, working my farm, yes I have a 2 acre farm in Washington, DC.” Shonte’ says, “The Xgeva has helped me because I wouldn’t have the strength and mobility I have now without it. The medication is protecting my bones from breaking. I am extremely active and if I fractured my hip I would really be in bad shape.”
If you are in treatment for cancer, have recovered from cancer treatment, and/or are curious about your bone health, ask your doctor for a