Chest x-ray

X-rays use high energy rays to take pictures of the inside of your body. X-rays can also show changes in tissues and organs. 

Chest x-rays can show:

  • fluid in your lungs
  • signs of infection
  • an enlarged heart
  • changes to the airways or lung tissue
Photograph of a chest x-ray

You have an x-ray to check your general health if your doctor thinks you might have AML.

Preparing for your x-ray

There is no special preparation for an x-ray. You can eat and drink normally beforehand. Take your medicines as normal.

What happens

When you arrive at the x-ray department, the staff might ask you to take your upper clothing off and put on a hospital gown.

You usually have a chest x-ray standing up against the x-ray machine. Or if you can't stand, you can have it sitting or lying on the x-ray couch.

Your radiographer will help get you into the correct position for your x-ray. This can take a couple of minutes. They line the machine up to make sure it’s in the right place. You must keep still, but can breathe normally.

Your radiographer then goes behind a screen to take the x-ray. They can still see and hear you. They might ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds.

X-rays are painless. You won’t feel or see anything. It only takes a fraction of a second to take. You usually need to have more than one x-ray taken from different angles. So the whole process can take a few minutes.

After your x-ray

After the x-ray you can get dressed and go home or back to work. 

Getting your results

Your scan will be looked at by a specialist doctor and you should get your results within 1 or 2 weeks. You won't get any results at the time of the scan. 

Waiting for test results can make you anxious. Ask your doctor or nurse how long it will take to get them. Contact them if you haven’t heard anything after a couple of weeks.

You might have the contact details for a specialist nurse. You can contact them for information and support if you need to. It may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel. 

For support and information, you can call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Contact the doctor that arranged the test if you haven't heard anything after a couple of weeks.

Possible risks

Many people worry about the possible effects of radiation. The amount you receive is small and doesn't make you feel unwell. The risk of the radiation causing any problems in the future is very small. The benefits of finding out what’s wrong outweigh any possible risk.

Talk to your doctor if you’re worried about the possible effects of x-rays. Tell your radiographer if you are pregnant or think you might be.

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