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Chest x-rays

An x-ray is a test that uses small doses of radiation to take pictures of the inside of your body. They are a good way to look at bones and can show changes caused by cancer or other medical conditions. X-rays can also show changes in other organs, such as the lungs.

You have x-rays in the imaging department of the hospital, taken by a radiographer.

Photograph showing a chest x-ray

In Hodgkin lymphoma, it is quite common to have swollen (enlarged) lymph nodes in the middle of your chest, in an area called the mediastinum.

Finding enlarged lymph nodes helps your doctor to decide what treatment you should have. A chest X-ray can also show if there is any fluid collecting around the lung. This is called a pleural effusion. It is a rare symptom in Hodgkin lymphoma.

What happens

Before your x-ray

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

When you arrive, the radiographer might ask you to change into a hospital gown and take off any jewellery.

During your x-ray

You usually have a chest x-ray standing up against the x-ray machine. If you can’t stand you can have it sitting or lying on the x-ray couch. For x-rays of other areas of the body the best position is usually lying down on the x-ray couch.

The radiographer lines the machine up to make sure it's in the right place. You must keep very still.

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

X-rays are painless and quick. You won’t feel anything.

You might have more than one x-ray taken from different angles. The whole process may 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

Ask your doctor how long it will be until you get your x-ray results. Unless it’s urgent it can take a week or two. You normally get the results at your next clinic appointment.

Waiting for test results can be worrying. You might have contact details for a specialist cancer nurse. You can get in touch with them for information and support if you need to. It may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel.

You can also call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Possible risks

An x-ray is a safe test for most people but like all medical tests it has some possible risks. Your doctor and radiographer make sure the benefits of having the test outweigh these risks.

Radiation

The amount of radiation you receive from an x-ray 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 is wrong outweigh any risk there may be from radiation.

Talk to your doctor if you are worried about the possible effects of x-rays.

Last reviewed: 
25 Sep 2020
Next review due: 
25 Sep 2023
  • Essential Orthopaedics
    Miller and others
    Elsevier Health Sciences, 2010

  • Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up
    DA Eichenauer, A Engert, M André and others
    Annals of Oncology, 2018, Volume 29 (Supplement 4)

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