Conventional X–rays use low doses of radiation to capture still pictures of internal structures on film. Despite all the high-tech imaging studies currently available, the X–ray still plays an important role in cancer diagnosis. For example, a chest X–ray is often the first step toward lung cancer diagnosis. And a mammogram is basically a conventional, low–radiation X–ray taken through a machine built to accommodate the breasts. CT scans too, are X–rays raised to new and powerful heights via their computer linkage. Some of these procedures require use of a contrast material to highlight body parts that wouldn’t otherwise show up on film. Depending on the type of X–ray, the contrast material may be injected or swallowed. The health risks of radiation from today’s low–dose X–rays are minimal, but they are cumulative –– that is, radiation from successive X–rays could eventually lead to genetic damage. However, the chances of this occurring are minimal, and usually there is no reason to fear that radiation exposure from necessary diagnostic x–rays will endanger health.
Some of the common x–ray examinations are:
- Chest X–ray done to look for abnormalities such as pneumonia or fluid in the lung.
- Bone X–rays mainly to look for fractures.
- Joint X–rays to look for joint damage from arthritis.
- Spine X–rays to look at the bony structure of the spine, bone growth, disc problems, scoliosis and fracture.