My Story: “I Was Silly to Put off Getting My DXA Scan!”

After a period of procrastination, Sue is now working hard to strengthen her bones.

The warning signs for osteoporosis were there, but Sue C., 54, waited almost three years after her doctor’s recommendation to have her first bone density scan.

 “I had the ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude,” says Sue. “But I was silly to put the test off because it was such an easy experience.”

When Sue turned 50, her internist gave her a comprehensive physical. At the time, he recommended that she have a bone density screening because of her risk for osteoporosis. Sue had gone through early menopause, reducing her body’s production of the hormone estrogen, which is needed to maintain bone health.

Her doctor recommended a DXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) test that measures bone mass in the hips, spine and other areas.

“It took no more than five minutes!”

Sue—who works as a home care and hospice administrator in the New York City area—delayed scheduling her test until she was 53 years old. When she finally made the appointment, she was pleasantly surprised by how smoothly the test went.

The day she arrived at the radiology department at a nearby hospital, she lay face up on a table. “They prop you up so you are comfortable,” she explains, adding that the test involves a large X-ray machine that moves over your body. “It took no more than five minutes from setup to leaving the room,” she says. The results showed Sue had mild osteopenia, or low bone density. Osteopenia may be a precursor to osteoporosis.

Taking a proactive approach to life

While having the test was a great first step, Sue once again learned the importance of following the advice of her doctor, who put her on calcium and vitamin D supplements. Sue says she stopped taking both after a month because the calcium upset her stomach. “But really, I wasn’t taking it as it was prescribed,” she admits. “So, I decided I was okay and ignored the diagnosis.”

But an injury a year later reminded Sue of the importance of following up with her doctor’s suggestions. Now she’s fully committed to getting regular bone density tests and taking supplements. “There are a lot of things you can do to improve osteoporosis if you catch it early,” she says. “I walk five times a week, I do more yoga and do weight training to build myself up.”  

The experience has also prompted her to see her doctor on a much more regular basis. “I used to go to my doctor only when something was wrong,” says Sue. “Now, I see my doctor in a much more preventive and proactive way.”

When supplements alone won’t do

If, like Sue, you’re taking calcium and vitamin D supplements to protect your bones, be sure to check with your doctor regularly. He or she may recommend a bone density scan to see if the supplements are doing enough to safeguard you from a break, or fracture, or if you would benefit from treatment with an osteoporosis medicine.


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