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Learning About Abnormal X-Ray Results

What is an X-ray?

An X-ray is a picture of the inside of your body. The X-ray may show bones, organs, or pockets of air or fluid. It may also show objects that have gotten into the body, like coins or nails. Any part of your body can be X-rayed, including your head, chest, belly, arms, and legs.

An X-ray is only one piece of information about your health. Your doctor considers many things when looking at an X-ray. These things may include your symptoms, your age, your weight, a physical exam, and your medical and family history.

That's why it's important to talk to your doctor. He or she can give you a clear sense of what the X-ray means for you. It's also a good idea to learn a little about X-rays in general.

What do the results of the test mean?

Making sense of your X-ray involves more than just seeing the image. Your doctor can tell you what your X-ray means for you and your health.

X-rays don't show everything. Muscles and ropy fibres (ligaments) don't show up in a useful way on an X-ray. And some problems, like a bleeding stomach ulcer, don't show up on X-rays. If your X-ray doesn't give a clear picture, you may need other tests. For example, you may need a CT scan, an ultrasound, an endoscopy, or an MRI scan.

Sometimes an X-ray can suggest a problem when there isn't one. Several things can cause an abnormal result, including small growths (nodules) that may not cause any harm. But without more tests, your doctor can't tell whether an abnormal finding is a harmless nodule, cancer, or something else.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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