Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bone health after breast cancer

I attended a session on Bone Health - informative for all women. It was done by a physiotherapist, a nutritionist and a pharmacist. It was on how to decrease your chances of developing Osteoporosis (a disease that makes bones thin and weak, meaning you are more susceptible to fractures).

We are done building our bone strength around age 18. We maintain it during our 20's, and start to slowly lose it in our mid-30's. Women start to lose it rapidly at menopause because of the drop in estrogen levels. There are lots of major and minor risk factors - but the one that stands out for cancer survivors is early menopause (before age 45, typically caused by chemo).

What to do? Make sure you are getting enough Calcium, Vitamin D and exercise. The amount varies depending on your age, but a post-menopausal woman should get 1500mg Calcium and 1000 IU's of Vitamin D each day.

Your body makes vitamin D when you are in the sun, but apparently you need your arms and legs exposed, no sunblock, for 5-20 minutes, between the hours of 10 and 2. Not many of us Canadians can do that year round. Most people need to take a mulit-vitamin or supplement to get enough.

The physiotherapist was there to tell us that physical activity helps to keep bones strong - both weight-bearing exercises like walking and running, and resistance/strength training like free weights and push-ups.

They didn't recommend any specific multi-vitamin, just had us all bring whatever we take so we could see how much was in it and think about how much we're getting in our food. My multi-vitamin has 400mg of calcium and 200 IU of Vitamin D. I drink 2 glasses of milk a day, but that still doesn't get me there. I'm going to look for a different multi-vitamin or take some extra calcium and vitamin D...


  1. this is so serious... my aunt got a hug and her ribs got broken.... MILK

  2. Since chemo last year I've moved from osteopenia (near osteoporosis) to full blown osteoporosis. I asked my doc to check the vit D level in my blood and I am now taking 1000 units of D plus calcium. We'll do a blood check again later to see if my D level is up.

    This is a good post for cancer patients...they need to be aware of this.

  3. Such great info! The only trouble I find is that most of the information out there says to take your calcium at least 2 hours before or after other medications and vitamins because calcium blocks the absorption of other stuff. That makes it hard when you have a handful of stuff to take in the morning, some at noon, and others in the evening. I try to get it in daily, but often can't find that two hour window of opportunity!

  4. Good information to pass along. At age 45, I was diagnosed with osteopenia, thanks to the chemo at 43. I suffer from back pain particularly. I am taking the calcium and vitamin D supplements, and in a few minutes, I am going to go for a run.

    Try to do as much as you can, and thanks again for the information!

  5. This is a very informative post Beth. For those of us that are on tamoxifen we have to take supplements of calcium (1500) and vitamin D (1000) because it affects the bones.I also take a multivitamin and vitamin C.

  6. I am exercising daily do help strenthen my bones, as well as getting good nutrition.


  7. Everyone handles vit D differently and there's a huge correlation between deficient levels and cancer patients. If you don't know what your vit D level is, you should ask for the blood test to find out so you'll know how much you should take in supplement form. In spite of taking 2000 iui daily my level was only 44 when it should be between 60-80. I upped it to 5000 iui daily and only reached 52 so now I'm on 6000 iui daily and getting ready to be retested. It's important to know what your level is so you can make the right changes because deficiency is strongly linked to many diseases including breast cancer. I'm also now getting infusions of zometa to strengthen my bones and their defense against possible spread of any rogue cancer cells that might have survived the chemo (although there had better not be any of those!) bone density test was on the borderline of normal and osteopenia so they said the zometa will be important to prevent further decline. I'm getting it every 3 months for 2 years.

  8. Beth, according to T. Colin Campbell, PhD in nutrition and author of THE CHINA STUDY, drinking milk and consuming dairy products is a prescription for breast cancer. He shows that populations who consume dairy products also have the highest rates of breast cancer. Cow's milk, by it's very nature contains growth hormones designed to make tissue grow and cells multiply. Milk also contains high amounts of the amino acid, methionine, which when metabolized in our bodies creates enough sulphuric acid to cause leaching of (alkaline) calcium from the bones (for homeostasis), resulting in osteoporosis, also prevalent in populations consuming dairy products.