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A chest X-ray uses very small amounts of radiation (electromagnetic waves) to create images of the structures inside your chest, including your heart, lungs, airways, and bones. At Stanford, we use chest X-rays to diagnose a wide range of injuries and conditions affecting the organs and bones in the chest.
Different types of tissues in your body absorb differing levels of radiation:
Bones, such as your ribs, absorb the most radiation and appear white or light gray in the X-ray
The lungs absorb very little radiation and appear dark
The heart shows up as medium gray
Our doctors may order a chest X-ray to assess injuries, such as broken bones, or to monitor a condition that may be worsening, such as fluid in the lungs. We can also use chest X-ray to help determine the underlying causes of symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath.
Our doctors use chest X-ray to plan treatment or evaluate its effectiveness, including:
Cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation