Why not take that bone-density test?

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Bone-density tests or scans have become common for older postmenopausal women – and are on the rise among younger and middle-aged women – partly because of the strong focus over the past decade on preventing osteoporosis. The test uses X-rays – usually of the spine, hip and forearm – to measure your bone mineral density (BMD), or how many grams of calcium and other bone minerals are in a segment of bone. The critics of these tests argue that healthy women are being overdiagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia (having a BMD that is lower than normal but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis), and are then prescribed drugs, such as bisphosphonates, that may be unnecessary and more dangerous than the condition itself. The American Academy of Family Physicians has recommended that this screening should NOT be done in women younger than 65 with no risk factors of osteoporosis.

Bone Density Tests: When You Need Them and When You Don’t
Choosing Wisely, 2012
A factsheet about when it is useful to have a bone density test and when it is not appropriate – and possibly harmful – to have these tests done.

The Myth of Osteoporosis
By Gillian Sanson, MCD Century Publications, 2011 (revised edition)
Discusses the controversies surrounding osteoporosis as a disease that stands to cause harm to scores of postmenopausal women. Also looks at osteopenia, or low bone density, and how drugs being prescribed for this "offer minimal benefit” amidst evidence for “serious harm”. For a summary of some of the key points in this book see CWHN’s article and webinar on this topic.

Women May Get Unneeded Osteoporosis Screening
By Amy Norton, Reuters, August 29, 2011
Reports on a 2011 study that suggest that up to 41 percent of women who get a bone scan for osteoporosis may not actually need such testing

What Evidence is there for the Prevention and Screening of Osteoporosis?
World Health Organization, 2006
A systematic review whose findings include no direct evidence that screening for osteoporosis reduces fractures, and that no direct scientific evidence supports mass screening by the use of bone density measurement.

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