How Can I Stay Safe When I Need an X-ray?

Oct 07, 2022
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How Can I Stay Safe When I Need an X-ray?

You’re exposed to radiation from a variety of elements, like radon in the air, cosmic rays, and the earth itself. But 96% of the manmade radiation you encounter in your life is due to medical procedures, such as X-rays.

While imaging tests, like X-rays, have an essential role in the diagnosis of disease and for some treatments, like guided injections, it’s understandable that you want to experience the minimum amount of radiation exposure possible. 

At St. Michael’s Elite Hospital, located in Sugar Land, Texas, we commonly order X-rays when you have an injury or symptoms that suggest the test can help with diagnosis. We also recommend specific types of X-rays for early detection of diseases, like breast cancer. 

But you can play a role in reducing the radiation risk from X-rays. Here’s how. 

Why should I be concerned about X-rays?

X-rays and certain other types of imaging tests, like computed tomography (CT) scans, deliver ionizing radiation into your body. These high-energy wavelengths penetrate tissue to make a picture of your internal structures. But it can also damage DNA. Your cells usually repair the damage but don’t always do so perfectly. That leaves small areas of misrepair that could contribute to diseases like cancer many years later. 

Usually, the risk of radiation exposure outweighs the benefit of an X-ray, but it’s understandable for you to be concerned. 

Be your own advocate

Ask our staff why they are recommending an X-ray and if there is another test that could be used instead to diagnose or offer treatment. If your provider believes an X-ray is the most effective way to assess your situation, don’t refuse it. The risk of not having an X-ray usually outweighs the small amount of radiation you encounter. 

Also, don’t request an X-ray if your medical provider thinks it’s unnecessary. 

Let our team know if you are or might be pregnant

The radiation in X-rays poses a very small risk to children and adults, but a developing fetus is at greater risk of being affected. 

Ask if it’s possible to use a protective shield

In many cases, a protective shield for parts of your body not being X-rayed can protect you from some of the radiation.

Keep track of your X-rays 

Keep track of your X-rays to be sure you’re not getting an unusual amount of radiation. Of course, different types of X-rays deliver varying amounts of radiation, and the amount you absorb depends on your weight and the body part targeted. But, keeping track gives you a general sense of how much radiation you’ve encountered through imaging. 

Know that other imaging tests use radiation

CT scans, for example, combine a series of X-ray images taken from different angles around your body to get a more complete diagnosis of certain conditions. Include these types of imaging tests on your X-ray tally. 

If you require regular CT scans to check the progression of a chronic disease, ask if it’s possible to extend the time between your tests. And, just like X-rays, don’t seek out a CT scan to just “be sure” that you got a thorough evaluation. If our team doesn’t recommend it, don’t request it. 

Here at St. Michael’s Elite Hospital, we have your health and well-being in your best interest. We’ll only recommend imaging tests, like X-rays, if we believe they’re essential to your diagnosis or treatment. Contact the hospital if you have any questions or concerns.