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04 May 2022

5 benefits of a bone density test: osteoporosis prevention & more

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Most people experience bone thinning as they age–this is called osteopenia (and, yes, it’s completely normal). However, osteopenia can place you at a greater risk for osteoporosis, which is a disease that thins and weakens the bones. Bone density scans help doctors to measure the health and strength of your bones, and allow them to spot any abnormalities.

If you’re wondering whether you may have osteoporosis or another medical condition related to bone health, your doctor may recommend that you receive a bone density scan. Read below for a breakdown of what this scan is, what it does, and who might be the best candidates for this scan. This article will also cover what the top benefits are of getting this scan (hint: there are many, and we’ve only listed a few).

What is a bone density test?

A bone density scan (DEXA scan) is a type of X-ray scan that measures calcium and other mineral levels in your bones.1 This type of scan uses very low doses of ionizing radiation to capture pictures of the bones (usually the hips or lumbar spine). In turn, this helps radiologists and doctors understand how strong or weak your bones are, whether you’re experiencing bone loss, and identify conditions such as osteoporosis, infections, and some cancers. Other names for bone density tests might include:

  • Bone densitometry
  • Bone mineral density test
  • BMD test
  • DEXA scan
  • DXA
  • Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry

What does a bone density test show?

A bone density test reveals your calcium levels and the levels of other minerals in your bones. Bone density tests are usually used for the following purposes:2

  • To diagnose osteopenia and osteoporosis
  • To predict possible future fracture susceptibility
  • To measure the efficacy of osteoporosis treatment

However, sometimes doctors might use bone density tests for other purposes.

Benefits of a bone density test

  1. They’re noninvasive. Bone density tests are noninvasive and relatively comfortable procedures.
  2. Bone density tests are safe. These tests only emit a very small amount of radiation–especially compared to standard X-ray procedures–making them safe medical tests for most people. However, make sure that you let your radiologist and doctor know if you’re pregnant or may become pregnant before you receive your bone density scan. Your doctor may want you to wait until you’ve had your baby to have this scan, or might have an alternative prescription for you.
  3. Early detection. Early detection is key. Bone density tests can pick up on the details of your bones’ integrity–they’re currently the best and most standard test that doctors use to catch low bone mass and nuanced decreases in your bone mass early.
  4. Proper Treatment. Bone density tests help your doctor prescribe you the proper treatment. If you are at risk for osteoporosis or have osteoporosis, bone density scans will help your doctor know what to do to treat you properly.

When you might need a bone density scan

If you are a woman over the age of 65, it’s best for you to receive a bone density scan as soon as possible. Your doctor may also recommend that you receive routine follow-up bone density scans as you grow older.3 Other reasons to get a bone density scan might include:

  • Family history of osteopenia or osteoporosis.
  • Having a low body weight.
  • Suffer from symptoms of osteoporosis.
  • Have suffered one or multiple bone fractures.
  • Losing height (particularly more than a half-inch within one year).
  • Being a man over the age of 70.
  • Suffer from hyperthyroidism or another thyroid condition.
  • Smoking cigarettes, drinking heavily, not getting enough exercise, and not getting enough calcium or vitamin D for a long period of time may also put you at significant risk for developing osteoporosis and needing a bone density scan.

Bone density test preparation

To prepare for your bone density test, you’ll want to first speak with your physician as to whether this test is right for you. Other than that, a bone density test doesn’t require a lot of preparation. Most of all, make sure to take off your jewelry before the scan, wear comfortable clothing that is void of metal (such as zippers), and let your doctor and radiologist know if you’re pregnant or could be pregnant. You should also avoid calcium supplements for at least one full day before your test.

Where to get a bone density test near me

You can find a bone density scan center near you by using scan.com. Our innovative search function gives you access to an expansive library of reputable X-ray providers in your area. Our search tool helps you easily locate bone density scan centers and their contact information so that you can call to discuss if they are a good fit for your personal scan needs. To quickly find the bone density scan center fit for you, use scan.com’s scan search tool today.

Does a bone density test show arthritis?

No, bone density tests generally do not show arthritis.

Does a bone density test show cancer?

Yes, sometimes bone density tests can show cancer, along with fractures, infections, and osteoporosis.


  1. radiologyinfo.org: Bone Density Scan (DEXA or DXA)
  2. medlineplus.gov: Bone Density Scan
  3. medlineplus.gov: Osteoporosis

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