One of the usual first steps to a mesothelioma diagnosis is a chest x-ray. A chest x-ray may show a buildup of fluid in the lining around the lung and is a quick procedure that requires no preparation.
A chest X-ray is performed by a radiology technologist. Before the x-ray, the technologist may ask you to remove your clothing from the waist up and remove all jewelry or other objects containing metal. This can block images and compromise the test results.
Your body will be positioned against the X-ray film and the technologist will take images from two positions:
- Back to front (called a posterior-anterior, or PA, view)
- The side (called a lateral view)
Each of the positions only lasts just a few seconds so the x-rays are taken quickly. The amount of radiation from a chest X-ray is low—even lower than what you're exposed to through natural sources of radiation in the environment, says the Mayo Clinic. In short, there are believed to be no side effects.
During a chest X-ray, a small amount of radiation is used to create an image of the structures within the chest. This includes the lungs, heart, bones, and blood vessels. According to the Cleveland Clinic, during the X-ray, a focused beam of radiation is passed through the body, and a black-and-white image is recorded on special film or a computer. The X-ray image that is created looks like a negative from a black and white photograph.
The entire procedure typically lasts around 20 to 30 minutes. This includes preparation, positioning, processing the films and repeating any images, if needed. The patient does not have to prepare for the procedure before arriving at the hospital and test results are usually available within a day or two.
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