Bone Density Medications
Bisphosphonate drugs are bone density medications (also called bone-modifying agents) that help prevent bone loss (osteoporosis). They are used in breast cancer treatment and care.
Breast cancer treatment
Bisphosphonates are used to treat some women with early breast cancer [8,72]. These drugs may lower the risk of breast cancer coming back (recurrence) [70-71].
If you are postmenopausal (either naturally or through ovarian suppression) and will get chemotherapy or hormone therapy after breast surgery, your oncologist may recommend the bisphosphonate zolendronic acid (Zometa) as part of your treatment .
Zolendronic acid is given by vein (through an IV) every 6 months for 3-5 years .
Breast cancer care
Bone density medications are used to prevent or manage side effects in:
- Women taking an aromatase inhibitor
- Women with early menopause related to breast cancer treatment
- Women with breast cancer that has spread to the bones (bone metastases)
Talk with your oncologist about possible side effects and health risks that may occur while taking zolendronic acid.
Bone, joint or muscle pain with first treatment
Although mostly a concern for people with metastatic breast cancer who take higher doses of bisphosphonates or denosumab, these drugs can cause bone, joint and muscle pain [115,122]. This type of pain usually only last for 1-2 days, and only with the first treatment.
However, if you have any of these symptoms, report them to your health care provider right away.
Osteonecrosis of the jaw
Although rare, bisphosphonates can cause osteonecrosis of the jaw, a serious jawbone disorder [123-124]. This is mostly a concern for people with metastatic breast cancer who take frequent doses of bisphosphonates for long periods of time.
It’s recommended you have a dental exam (along with any dental work that needs to be done) before you start treatment with a bisphosphonate or denosumab [8,123]. Before getting any dental procedure while on bone-strengthening therapy, talk with your oncologist [8,123]. Also, tell your dentist you are on one of these medications.
The RANK ligand (RANKL) inhibitor drug denosumab is another bone density medication used to help prevent and manage bone-related side effects women with breast cancer, including those with bone metastases.
The use of denosumab to lower the risk of breast cancer recurrence is under study [73-74]. However, most studies do not show denosumab offers a benefit [73-74].
Learn more about denosumab in the care of people with bone metastases.