Doctors will look at personal risk factors such as age, diet, tobacco and alcohol use, family history, and physical activity to determine your risk for osteoporosis. If you have one or more of these risk factors your doctor may recommend a dual energy xray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan. This is the only scan used to diagnose osteoporosis.
The DEXA scan uses x ray technology to measure bone density. During this test, patients lie on a padded table with an x ray device located below the table and an image recording device above the table. The two devices work together to scan the patient’s body. This scan exposes the patient to small amounts of radiation and costs $200 to $300.
The truth about radiation exposure
Exposure to radiation over time, even small amounts, can increase your risk for developing cancer. Everyday sources of radiation include trace amounts in food and water, dental x rays, airport security and radon gas. While small amounts of radiation are not considered a health risk, it is prudent to consider how additional exposure through medical exams could impact your total radiation exposure.
Before getting a DEXA scan, consider using a simple blood test to detect bone loss. N-Telopeptide (NTx) is a byproduct of bone regeneration and can be measured in the blood. If NTx test results indicate little or no bone loss, consider delaying the DEXA scan. On the other hand, if test results indicate moderate to high levels of bone loss, a full diagnosis and treatment should be considered more important than exposure to DEXA scan radiation.