What Does a Bone Density Scan Show?
Bone density refers to the amount of calcium and other minerals in a bone. A bone density scan -- the more technical term is dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA or DXA) -- measures the calcium and minerals in specific bones, such as the hip, spine, and wrist. This helps determine the density of your bones, how fragile they are, and how likely they are to break. Based on the results, your doctor can:
- Track changes in bone density over time
- Assess your risk for developing bone fractures
- Monitor your response to treatments for osteoporosis
Who Should Get a Bone Density Scan?
Bones often become less dense with age, especially in women. A bone density scan is recommended for women who are age 65 and older and other people at risk for osteoporosis. If the scan shows that your bones are healthy, the results can be used as a baseline measurement for future testing. A bone density scan may also be recommended for:
- Men younger than 70 and women under age 65 with a family history or other risk factors for low bone mass, including chemotherapy treatments, low body weight, previous fractures, and health conditions associated with bone loss
- People taking steroids, immunosuppressants, or other medications that can interfere with bone rebuilding or cause bone loss
- Women who have undergone certain breast cancer treatments such as anti-estrogen therapy