One out of every two women and one out of every four men will break a bone due to osteoporosis during their lifetime. Approximately 52 million Americans have osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weak, brittle bones, and low bone density (osteopenia).

A DEXA scan, or bone density scan, is the best way to evaluate your bone mineral density and estimate your chance of having a fracture. Bone scans are used to evaluate diseases of the bone or evaluate treatment for these diseases.

A patient’s results are compared with the results of an average man or woman at age 30, which is considered the peak age for bone mass in women. This information can help a patient’s physician diagnose osteoporosis or determine what steps are needed to protect the patient’s bone health.

What is a DEXA Scan?

A DEXA scan is the technique used to measure bone density. It’s an X-ray of the bone density with very little X-ray exposure. A DEXA scan uses two X-ray beams, one high-energy and the other low-energy. The amount of X-rays that pass through the bone is measured for each beam; the difference between the two tells the doctor the bone density.

DEXA scans don’t hurt and they take less than 20 minutes. I’ve heard plenty of patients say that the DEXA scan is the easiest test they’ve ever had.

Who should get a DEXA scan?

All women over the age of 65 and all men over the age of 70 should be evaluated for osteoporosis by getting this simple X-ray. There are many reasons to have a DEXA scan done earlier (women over the age of 60 and men over the age of 65 with risk factors), and you should discuss your risks with your primary care provider, gynecologist or midwife. Fortunately, there are a number of great treatment options to improve bone density that your healthcare provider can discuss with you.

Everyone thinks that a broken bone won’t happen to them but unfortunately a woman’s risk of fracturing a hip due to osteoporosis is equal to her risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer combined. And a man over the age of 50 is more likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis than he is to get prostate cancer.

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