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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

DEXA scan

A DEXA scan is a test that measures bone mineral density. Short for dual-energy X-ray absorption, the DEXA scan helps your doctor evaluate bone health and determine the likelihood of osteoporosis or bone fractures. This scan also may help detect if cancer has metastasized, or spread, to the bones.

If you are diagnosed with cancer, your doctor may perform a baseline DEXA scan before and during treatment in order to monitor your bone health. Based on the results, your doctor will determine if measures should be taken to help prevent bone loss. 

The quick and painless scan uses low levels of X-rays to measure bone mineral density. You will lie on a table for 15-20 minutes as your entire skeleton and/or specific points on the body, such as the spine or hip, are scanned. Once the scan is complete, the results are composed of two different scores:

T-Score: The difference between your bone density and that of an average healthy person. This score is used to determine your risk of breaking a bone.

Z-Score: The amount of bone you have compared to other people of the same age, race and gender. A score that is too high or too low may require more testing.

Once you receive your results, your doctor will help you understand what your scores mean and discuss treatment options to maintain your bone health.