HOW AN X-RAY CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE
For a long time, Ben Brown (not real names) always felt splitting headaches - first thing every morning.
Getting out of bed seemed like a daunting task. He had changed his mattress a lot and he had become addicted to several kinds of painkillers, all to no avail.
One morning, he woke up as usual, but this time something was different than normal - he doubled over and passed out.
He was subsequently rushed to the emergency for treatment. When preliminary examinations were conducted, the doctors concluded that he was in good health and had no probable health concern.
Many thanks to the in-house consultant who suggested that he ran an x-ray test. Ben was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer with the tumors just building up.
Following further testing, he received some chemotherapy and medications through which he was able to overcome the cancer thanks to early detection.
What you should know about x-rays
X-rays are one of the most common types of diagnostic checks that are used by doctors and other physicians to determine if a series of symptoms could be a result of a tumor, dislocation or inflammation.
This imaging modality uses electromagnetic rays as a form of radiation to create images of the body. You must have seen a result from an x-ray diagnosis. They are usually black and white because the images shown are a function of how the tissue absorbs the radiation.
Doctors have been looking for ways to use this amazing photographic powers of x-rays to capture much more than broken bones.
Of course, they have been successful with this imaging modality as X-ray is the foundation upon which the CT scan machine is built.
Uses of X-rays
X-rays can be useful for investigating a couple of health conditions including:
- fractured or dislocated bones.
- detecting pneumonia.
- special x-rays called mammograms can be used to test for and detect breast cancer.
- checking for the size of the heart.
- studying the bowels for obstruction and perforation.
X- rays are meant to be used upon the instruction of the doctor. They can be used when a level of pain or swelling is found in any part of the joint or when there is an obvious but obscure pathology in the body.
As mentioned above, they are particularly important in cases of individuals suffering from chest infections.
However, it is almost impossible for soft muscles to show on x-rays. Therefore tissues, ligaments, nerves, and tendons will not show on an x-ray. As such, an x-ray will not reveal muscle damage.
Nonetheless, in combination with a special dye known as contrast, X-rays can help to identify a few soft tissue pathologies ? especially those that occur within the gut.
X-rays and Cancers: What you should know
Although they are not fundamentally used for checking or detecting cancer cells because of the peculiarity of radioactivity and body tissue interactions, x- rays can show the presence of cysts and tumors in the breast (in the form of mammography) and bones.
In other parts of the body, x-ray imaging can be used to show the changes undergone by malignant growths in organs like the lungs, bowels and other soft tissues.
Understanding the physics behind X-rays
X-rays are being produced through a unique process that occurs when a part of an atom called the electron is decelerated upon collision with a metal object - usually called a target. This mostly occurs in an x-ray tube by the process called braking radiation.
RELATED ARTICLE: Know More About CT-SCAN
Are X rays harmful?
Sadly, the human body is affected by high concentrations of electromagnetic radiation. This is why doctors and other medical professionals often advise that the number of exposures to x-rays should be kept to the barest minimum.
An apple and a glass of wine are sufficient for a day but researchers are oblivious about how many x-rays are safe for the human body.
To put a number on this, it is better to stick to one-day exposure to x- rays and less than thrice in a week.
Compared to the side effects of chemotherapy with short term noticeable symptoms like hair loss, weight loss, bleeding, vomiting and fatigue, the harmful effects of excessive exposure to x-rays may remain oblivious for years.
However**, not all radiation levels are dangerous**. Within a certain limit, like that used for diagnostic purposes, x-rays are relatively safe.
Radiation exposure of 300 millirems is tolerable but as the levels begin to rise to about 600 millirems and above, the body begins to feel the harmful effects as that level of exposure is dangerous.
X-ray and pregnancy: should you be worried
This question often pops up from time to time when pregnant women are recommended to have a film taken.
Obviously, out of the normal range, extreme exposure to x-rays is not recommended.
However, contrary to what most people claim, x-rays do not lead to miscarriages or cause problems for the unborn child when precautions are taken before the procedure.
Pregnant women are usually expected to wear special x-ray gowns when they have an appointment with the radiologist.
Moreover, your physician isn?t expected to recommend and x-ray in pregnancy except in situations where the benefits outweigh the risk.
Also, the number of exposure in pregnancy is usually kept to a minimum to further reduce the levels of radiation reaching the unborn child.
Is your baby safe?
Studies have shown that minimal exposure to radiation will not cause birth defects if the level and number of exposures are optimized to safeguard the unborn child.
Nonetheless, there have been reports of children being susceptible to cancer at very young ages because their mothers were exposed to above-average levels of radioactive substances in pregnancy.
To put it simply, never undergo an x-ray in pregnancy without your doctor?s recommendation.
How to prepare for an x-ray
Like every diagnostic or prognostic investigation, there are peculiar preparatory steps to follow when you have an appointment with your radiologist.
Here are a few to keep in mind when having an x-ray film taken:
- Some clothing and personal effects are frowned at. It is advisable to keep clothing with metallic embellishment away from you when going for your appointment.
- To undergo an x-ray examination, you would have to undress the part of the body that needs to be captured, a light gown is often given for the examination and you may be asked to take off glasses, accessories, jewelry, and objects that contain metal.
- Special gowns may be given to you for your protection. These gowns are usually heavy but don?t you worry, they are for your protection.
- You can eat as much as you would like before having your x-ray done. The amount of fluid to drink isn?t also limited. Except for the doctor?s recommendation, food has no role to play in the result of your x-ray.
- Some x-ray techniques require contrast dyes for visibility. Here, you would be given a liquid agent to drink before having the x-ray. This contrast helps to outline the food pipe and abdomen.
When recommended, having an x-ray can save your life. It is the top choice for diagnosing and detecting broken bones and equally one of the cheapest diagnostic investigations available today.
So long as the individual is not exposed to prolonged and unnecessary levels of radiation, x-rays are safer than you think.