Measuring Bone Density

A specialized bone density test called a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan is used to assess bone health. A DEXA scan measures bone density at the hip and spine, where fractures are most likely to occur. It can detect and assess how much bone you have lost, whether you have osteoporosis, and your risk of developing a fracture.

To assess bone health a specialized bone density test called a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan is used

Some physicians may recommend a device they have in their own office that can measure the density of the forearm, finger, or heel. But studies have found that measurements of these areas are not representative of the state of a woman’s hip or spine. This means your arm could test normal, but your spine or hip might actually show osteopenia or osteoporosis. So, if you are going to have a test done, make sure you have the DEXA scan. It is now believed that women should not have their first DEXA scan until age 65. At that age it is easier to determine who really is at risk for a fracture and who is not. If you have a family history of fractures or have previously had a fracture, you may want to have your first DEXA scan at age 50. (Black and Asian women have different degrees of bone density than white women. Because Asian women have low bone density, being Asian is often listed as a risk factor for osteoporosis, even though these women have far fewer hip fractures than white women.) If you are being treated for breast cancer, your doctor may want you to have a DEXA scan to monitor your bone health.

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