Unneeded Osteoperosis Screening Suggested By New Report

Approximately 12 million Americans older than 50 have osteoporosis, and roughly half of postmenopausal women will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture at some point according to long term care insurance experts. 

Expert guidelines advise women age 65 or older to get a bone scan to screen for osteoporosis, explains Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance, one of the nation’s leading long term care experts. Some women with risk factors for osteoporosis, such as smoking, are advised to start screening around age 50. 

However, a new study suggests that a proportion of women who get screened for osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease which causes bones to become fragile and vulnerable to breaks, may not actually need such testing. 

According to scientists conducting the new study, the researchers found that of over 600 women who underwent osteoporosis screening, 41 percent did not meet those criteria.   The study did not explain why the women were tested.  The researchers surmised that in some cases, women might ask for screening or some physicians may not be aware of the guidelines and believe, for example, that it’s best to screen all postmenopausal women. 

Like most screening, testing for osteoporosis has downsides the medical experts note.  Screening is usually done with a special type of x-ray that measures bone density, known as dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA).   The doctors added that unwarranted DXA screening may lead to some women being treated unnecessarily. 

Following the test for osteoporosis, a woman is given a T-score, which is a comparison of her bone mass against the average bone mass of a healthy, young woman. In some cases, a woman may have relatively low bone mass, though not overt osteoporosis.  “As a result, doctors may feel compelled to treat for the disease,” acknowledged Slome.  Those therapies can carry side effects and increased risks like increased odds of stroke, breast cancer, and heart disease in women taking estrogen.  

To help prevent bone loss with age, experts recommend getting a well-balanced diet with enough calcium and vitamin D, in particular, as well as regular exercise. 

The Association urges women to learn more about long-term care planning and get long-term care insurance cost from a designated expert via the organization’s Consumer Information Center at http://www.aaltci.org/long-term-care-insurance/free-quote/.  “The best ages to start planning are between ages 52 and 62 when costs are lowest and you don’t risk being declined because of existing health conditions,” Slome explains.


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