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Cancer Treatment Centers of America


What is an X-ray?

An X-ray, a type of high-energy electromagnetic radiation, is often used for medical imaging. X-ray technology may be used to examine many parts of the body. This image-guided technology is an important procedure for cancer diagnosis, staging and treatment.

An X-ray uses electromagnetic radiation to create images. The image is recorded on a film, called a radiograph. The images produced appear light or dark, depending on the absorption rates of the various tissues. For example, dense materials, such as bone, show up white on a film, while fat and muscle may appear in varying shades of gray.

Originally, X-rays were used for imaging bones because they were easily distinguishable from soft tissues on films available at the time. Today, improvements such as better photographic films, more accurate focusing systems and more sensitive detection methods have led to better imaging technology and results. Using lower-exposure levels, fine detail and subtle differences may be distinguished in tissue density. Advances in technology have led to the development of computed tomography (CT), which combines multiple X-ray images into a 3D model.

A valuable medical tool, the X-ray is a noninvasive procedure used for diagnosing disease, monitoring therapy and planning surgical treatment. X-rays may also be used in guiding the placement of medical devices such as catheters and stents.

Before undergoing certain types of X-rays, you may be given a contrast medium like barium or iodine to help identify a specific area of the body on the X-ray image. Contrast mediums may be swallowed or given as an injection or an enema.

An X-ray exam is quick and painless. In low doses, X-rays may be used to create images of structures inside the body to detect and stage a tumor. Radiation exposure from an X-ray for imaging is low, and research suggests the benefits far outweigh the risks. In higher doses, X-rays may be used in radiation therapy to help destroy cancerous cells in the body.

Managing side effects

X-ray procedures have fewer side effects than those typically associated with traditional cancer treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Patients may experience some side effects, including fatigue and pain. We offer a variety of supportive care services, including mind-body medicine, nutrition therapy, pain management, naturopathic medicine, oncology rehabilitation and spiritual support, to help you manage these and other side effects during and after treatment.

X-ray medical animation