1. Scan Types
  2. /
  3. X-Ray


X-ray scans are medical imaging tools that apply electromagnetic waves to create pictures of your internal structures.

Find Imaging Centers
Medically reviewed for accuracy
3 minutes reading time

X-ray scan guide: definition & walk-in X-ray clinics

An X-ray scan is a common type of imaging test used to capture images of the inside of the body. These scans help doctors diagnose broken bones, pneumonia, and other medical conditions, as well as prescribe helpful treatments. Learn more below about X-ray scans, where to get them, and how they can help you protect your health.

What are X-rays & medical X-ray scans

X-ray is a form of radiation that uses electromagnetic waves. X-ray scanning machines apply these waves (which can pass through most objects, including human beings) to create pictures of the structures and tissues inside your body. 

When X-rays pass through your body during a scan, they also pass through an X-ray detector positioned on the other side of your body or body part. When the waves pass through the detector, the machine forms a picture of the “shadows” cast by objects in your body. 

X-rays may produce film images or digital images, depending on the type of detector your technologist uses.

How does an X-ray scan work?

X-ray scans create radiographs, or images made by electromagnetic waves, by passing through your body and then through a detector. During an X-ray, your radiographer may ask you to stand, lie, or sit in a way that helps produce the clearest image of the body part you need scanned. 

When your radiographer turns the X-ray machine on and starts your scan, X-rays will pass through your body. Your body contains tissues and structures of varying density, or atomic thickness. Because of this, tissues and structures absorb these waves differently and show up in unique ways on your medical image. 

For example, some high-contrast parts of your body, such as your bones, will show up whiter in a medical image because they are very dense. Doctors use these images to make important diagnoses and prescribe life-saving treatment plans. 

There are many types of X-ray machines used in medicine, some of which include:

  • Mammography scans
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans
  • Fluoroscopy scans
  • Specialized radiation therapy machines (used in cancer treatments)

What can X-ray scans detect?

Radiographers often use X-ray scans to create images that show broken, fractured, or cancerous bones. However, X-ray scans help with more than bone scans. Doctors can also use X-rays to determine whether any of the following abnormalities exist within your body:

  • Tumors
  • Abnormal masses
  • Calcifications
  • Foreign objects
  • Dental issues
  • Pneumonia

How much does an X-ray cost?

The cost of an X-ray scan depends on your provider, your health insurance coverage, and the part of your body that you’re scanning. To figure out the exact price of your X-ray scan, call your X-ray clinic or provider. You may be able to use your health insurance to pay for X-ray scans, depending on different factors.

Are X-rays safe?

When used safely and responsibly, X-rays offer you more benefits than risks. However, X-rays do produce a small amount of ionized radiation. Although we are exposed to trace amounts of radiation every day, larger amounts of radiation are known to cause cancer.

Make sure to tell your doctor and radiologist whether you are pregnant or currently suffer from any medical conditions. For some X-rays, your radiographer may give you a protective shield to wear. If your radiographer does not give you a protective shield for your scan, it’s okay to ask them for one.

How to find an X-ray clinic near you

Finding an X-ray clinic is easy using scan.com’s scan search tool. We help patients like you connect with reputable X-ray clinics and radiology centers in your area. From there, you can contact your preferred clinic to schedule your X-ray scan appointment.


  1. https://www.nibib.nih.gov/science-education/science-topics/X-rays
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/xrays.html
  3. https://www.hhs.gov/answers/public-health-and-safety/how-can-i-reduce-radiation-exposure-from-x-rays/index.html
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3520258/

Frequently asked questions

See a few of our most frequent asks. Have more questions? We'd love to help.

Get in touch

Find an imaging center near you

Search for local MRI imaging centers near you and book online in minutes.