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Radiation & Me


Chest X Ray

A chest x ray is probably one of the most common diagnostic exams and is used to look at the chest, ribs, lungs, and heart. We use the chest x ray to assure, perhaps, that the person is healthy enough to undergo surgery or to look for certain diseases like emphysema, pneumonia, or lung cancer.

Barium Enema

Copyright 2008, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

A barium enema helps us look at the large intestine or colon. Most often, a barium enema is performed by putting barium into the large intestine so it can be seen on x rays. Barium is a contrast material that is not radioactive, but simply allows the intestine to be visible on the x ray. Watching the barium go through the intestine allows doctors to see if there are blockages or other issues. Sometimes, after most of the barium is removed, air is put into the intestine. The air helps fill out the intestine and with the little bit of barium still coating the intestine wall, even some small obstructions or polyps will now be visible.


Mammography is a type of x-ray imaging used most often to look for or diagnose breast cancer or other breast disease. A mammogram can show even very small abnormalities and, in individuals with very dense breast tissue, these small masses can be seen up to two years before the individual can feel them.

CT Exam

Copyright 2008, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

Computerized tomography (CT) imaging is a technique using x rays and computer processing to generate two-dimensional pictures of the inside of the body. The images are called “CT slices” because one image will show all things in the body in that one location. Picture a loaf of bread. Now picture that loaf of bread having a heart, lungs, stomach and other organs inside of it. Take one slice of it out of the center—what do you see? If that is a CT slice of the center of the body, we will likely see a section of the stomach, maybe some small intestine, a section of the spine, maybe some liver, and other tissues that are in the center of the body. When more than one body slice is created, the doctor can see through an entire organ, enabling the doctor to find the cause of many types of abdominal pain.