ANNOUNCER: Osteoporosis can be a devastating disease for its victims. It is also one of the most preventable disease in the United States today. Most osteoporosis-related fractures could be avoided or prevented if women were aggressive about early detection and diagnosis and then received appropriate medical treatment. The most effective diagnostic tool available to people today is the bone density test.
JOSEPH LANE, MD: Bone density scan, essentially, is an x-ray of your skeleton, and the amount of x-ray that does not pass through the bone is a measure of the amount of bone mass that you have in that particular skeleton.
FEMALE SPEAKER: I'm going to make sure you're straight on the table, okay? You can breathe, but don't move. And start with your lower spine and continue with your right hip.
JOSEPH LANE, MD: These are very rapid tests, and it can be done in as little as 30 seconds. Some can take up to six minutes. A patient will lie on a table, and then a special machine will then pass x-rays through the patient, looking at the spine, the wrist, or the hip, usually, and then be able to determine the actual amount of bone mass, amount of bone in the hip, spine, or in the wrist.
FEMALE SPEAKER: Well, I just set the guidelines for the machine to analyze the hip by placing the block -- the area that they're taking the reading from, which they take from the neck of the femur, and that just places the block for the machine to analyze. And then it gives numerical values.
BESSIE SCHEER: It's not uncomfortable. The nurse turns me around whichever way I have to go. There's no pain attached. There's nothing, really.
ANNOUNCER: There are a number of tests that are used to diagnose osteoporosis, among them, CAT scans and ultrasounds. And even with the DEXA bone density test, which remains superior to all other diagnostic methods, women and their doctors have not been aggressive about seeking diagnosis.
DANA ADKINS: I'm very, very lucky that I found out about this in my early 40s that I might be at risk for this. I only wish I could have known in my 20s and my 30s, when I might have been able to build more bone mass than I have now.
JOSEPH LANE, MD: Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of individuals are not getting treatment. They have to be their own advocate, so I would strongly urge that all patients and individuals, such as women when they enter menopause and men when they get to be around 70, to consider getting a bone DEXA, because we have very good data to indicate if you have a DEXA in hand and you carry it to the physician, the physician will treat you, but if you don't, they are so busy looking at your heart and your ear and your stomach that they just never get around to osteoporosis.
ANNOUNCER: So the way to win the fight against osteoporosis is act early, and those most at risk should talk with their physicians.
JOSEPH LANE, MD: If your mother or your nearest and dearest relatives have had osteoporosis, particularly with a fracture, you're at risk. If you have had a fracture, what I call a low-energy injury --that means anything short of an automobile accident or falling down a flight of stairs, this is called a low energy injury -- you should be concerned. If you are a smoker, if you weigh under 127 pounds, if you are taking a drug that is well known to cause osteoporosis, or if you have a disease that leads to bone loss, all of these should urge you very quickly to get a DEXA and to go to your doctor and develop a strategy.