Any time a doctor needs to see images of the structures inside your body, it is likely he or she will order an X-ray.
This quick, painless test starts by passing X-ray beams through your body. These beams are then absorbed in different amounts based on how dense the material they’re passing through is.
If a material is dense, like bone or metal, it shows up as white on an X-ray. The air inside your lungs appears black on an X-ray, while fat and muscle show up as shades of gray.
In certain situations, when greater detail of the image is needed, a contrast medium like iodine or barium is used.
We’re sharing everything you need to know in case you ever need to have an X-ray done.
What Can You Tell from an X-ray?
From fractures and infection to breast cancer, X-ray technology can bring light to many different health issues affecting various parts of the body.
Here is a full list of the problems an X-ray can help to diagnose:
Dental decay: To check for cavities, dentists regularly use X-rays to see details of both the teeth and jaw.
Arthritis: If you are suffering from symptoms similar to arthritis, your doctor may recommend taking an X-ray to properly diagnose you. It is also likely X-rays will be done regularly to see if the arthritis is getting worse.
Osteoporosis: In order to diagnose osteoporosis, bone density may be measured using a special type of X-ray.
Bone cancer: Bone tumors may be revealed using X-rays.
Fractures and infections: Your doctor may use an X-ray to see a fracture or infection in your bones or teeth.
Digestive tract issues: To see problems in the digestive system, you may be given a contrast medium to drink before your X-ray.
Swallowed items: If your child swallows something that has lodged itself in his or her body, the X-ray can help show the location.
Breast cancer: X-rays of the breast, called mammograms, examine breast tissue to reveal any signs of cancer that may exist.
Lung conditions: From pneumonia to cancer to tuberculosis, chest X-rays can be critical when diagnosing a condition of the lung.
Blocked blood vessels: If there is a change in the blood flow to the lungs and heart, it can be detected on an X-ray of the chest.
Enlarged heart: X-rays are crucial in revealing signs of heart failure, such as an enlarged heart.
Can You See Cancer on an X-ray?
Yes, X-rays can be used to help diagnose cancer and to determine the type of cancer.
Bone cancer, breast cancer and lung cancer are the most common forms of cancer diagnosed using an X-ray.
If someone has lung cancer, the X-ray will show a visible mass or nodule that will appear as a white spot on the lungs.
If an X-ray detects a tumor, the image will then be closely studied to reveal whether it’s malignant or benign.
If the tumor is benign, it will show up with a smooth border, while malignant tumors typically have a ragged border.
How Do You Prepare for an X-ray?
Before your X-ray, it is a good idea to ask your doctor or nurse if there are any specific instructions. This depends on the type of X-ray you need.
Usually, you will be asked to remove clothing from whatever part of the body needs to be examined. A gown should be provided to you if necessary.
Because they can appear on the X-ray, jewelry, eyeglasses and metal objects will most likely need to be removed.
In certain situations, a contrast medium may be necessary to help show a certain area of your body. If this is needed, you might be asked to swallow the contrast medium or will be given it as an injection.
It’s possible that the contrast medium can cause side effects like a feeling of warmth, nausea, itching, lightheadedness, hives or a metallic taste in the mouth.
What to Expect During an X-ray
Typically, X-rays are done at the office of your doctor or dentist, an emergency room or the hospital.
As the X-ray is happening, a safe level of radiation moves through your body, recording an image.
To help get the right views and position, a technologist may help situate you or place pillows or sandbags under you.
It is very important that you stay still during the X-ray so that the images don’t come out blurry. It’s possible the technologist could even ask you to hold your breath.
The procedure could last anywhere from a few minutes for a bone X-ray to more than an hour if your procedure is more involved.
If your child is getting an X-ray, you may be able to stay with him or her during the procedure as long as you agree to wear a lead apron to protect you from any unnecessary radiation.
How Long Does It Take to Get Results from an X-ray?
Most X-rays are saved in a digital form so they can be viewed on-screen within minutes. The radiologist will take a look at the results and interpret what’s going on before sending the report to your doctor.
After the X-ray has been done, you should be able to leave immediately. In most cases, you will receive your test results from your doctor within one to two days.
Typically, you can go back to your normal activities as soon as you’re done.
If you’ve been given a contrast medium before the test, it’s important that you drink plenty of fluids afterward to flush it out of your body.
Where Do I Go for an X-ray?
Many people aren’t aware that urgent care centers, such as CareNow Urgent Care can perform an X-ray procedure.
Our clinics are staffed by trained, qualified technicians who are prepared to serve you when and where you need it.
Each of our more than 100 clinics throughout the United States have been inspected and certified by the Texas Bureau of Radiation control.
Before you show up for your X-ray, be sure to utilize the Web Check-In® feature to avoid waiting!