JoAnn spends every weekend she can hiking. She’s trekked the Grand Canyon five times and explored hiking trails throughout Arizona. That’s why she was surprised when a bone density scan revealed she had osteoporosis, a condition that causes bone loss and can lead to fractures. 

“I was running, hiking, walking and eating high-calcium foods and I still had bone loss,” she says. 

JoAnn is among 54 million Americans who have osteoporosis and low bone mass, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF). To diagnose this condition as early as possible, Dignity Health, Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) offers dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). This simple, painless exam for measuring bone density is available at: 

  • The Breast Care Center at Dignity Health, YRMC in Prescott Valley; and 
  • Prescott Medical Imaging in Prescott. 

“DEXA provides information so a woman and her physician can take steps to prevent fractures,” says Mary Sterling, Director, Diagnostic and Cardiovascular Imaging at Dignity Health, YRMC. “It’s similar to a mammogram in that the radiation dose is very minimal and the information is extremely important.” 

During a DEXA exam, the patient lies flat on a comfortable, padded table. An x-ray generator is located below the patient and an imaging device, or detector, is positioned above. The detector passes over the patient, generating images on a computer monitor. The exam lasts approximately 10 minutes. A radiologist interprets the exam and then shares the results with the patient’s doctor. 

“We encourage women to schedule their mammogram and DEXA on the same day,” says Sterling. “It’s convenient and a good way to ensure you’re undergoing both of these important exams.” 

While it’s most often associated with women, men also should be aware of the dangers of bone loss and osteoporosis. In fact, according to NOF, a man age 50 or older is more likely to suffer a broken bone due to osteoporosis than he is to get prostate cancer. 

What puts people at risk for osteoporosis? Uncontrollable risk factors include: 

  • Being over age 50 and female 
  • Menopause, particularly early-onset menopause 
  • A family history of osteoporosis 
  • Being small and thin 
  • Broken bones or height loss 

Other osteoporosis risk factors include: 

  • Lack of calcium and vitamin D 
  • Not eating enough fruits and vegetables and consuming too much protein, sodium and caffeine 
  • Lack of exercise and activity 
  • Tobacco use and drinking too much alcohol 
  • Weight loss 

Want to schedule a DEXA? Contact your physician to request a referral. To make an appointment for a DEXA at either the Breast Care Center or Prescott Medical Imaging, call outpatient scheduling at (928) 771-7577.  

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