ZocdocAnswersAre chest X-Rays necessary during a checkup?

Question

Are chest X-Rays necessary during a checkup?

Under what conditions should a person get a chest x-ray? I came into my doctor for a normal checkup and I mentioned that I had been having trouble with shortness of breath - and then I had to talk him out of x-raying my chest. Is it normal to use x-rays in a routine way like that?

Answer

Chest x-rays are not a part of routine screening for any disease, as recommended by the major public health and medical societies in this country. However, the chest x-ray is a very common, cost-efficient and effective next step in the work-up of several different symptoms, such as chronic cough, acute cough with fever, coughing up blood, shortness of breath and chest pain, to name a few. The amount of radiation that is involved with a simple chest x-ray is minimal and should not be a cause of concern. Chest x-rays can provide a variety of information about the chest wall, the lungs and the heart, and can reveal findings such as pneumonia, fluid in the lungs, lung masses, congenital heart and lung diseases, etc that can all be potential causes of shortness of breath. You should talk with your primary care physician about your symptoms and follow-up on his suggestion to have a chest x-ray performed. Depending on the results of this imaging, your physician may choose to do further testing with other imaging such as a CT scan to get a better picture of your lungs, or may choose to take a closer look at your heart (for example, with ultrasound).

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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