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Full body scan: Benefits and what to expect

CT scan icon

Key takeaways:

  • Full body scans are fast, painless, and radiation-free when using MRI.
  • Full body MRI scans can help screen for abnormalities and cancer in up to 13 organs.
  • Preventive medicine can help prevent or catch cancer when it is still curable. 
  • MRI and CT are technologies used for full body scans.
  • The benefits of full body scans for lung cancer and colon cancer are currently being studied.

The full body scan is currently trending in preventive medicine, especially in cities like Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco. That’s because a full body scan can save your life. 

In this post, we’ll discuss what a full body scan is, what it is generally used for, and what it can show. We’ll also help you make an educated decision about whether you should start annual full body screenings to assess your overall health. Act proactively on your health to live longer and better.

What are full body scans?

Full body scans are medical imaging procedures that will tell you what is going on in your entire body, from the brain to the toes. It could help to catch dangerous diseases like cancer in the early stages when it is still curable.

The underlying technology used to scan your whole body can be computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Both techniques—MRI and CT scans—can view the inside of your body. A CT scan is usually faster, but MRI images are more detailed. Also, CT scan uses X-rays while MRI is free of radiation.

Full body CT scan.

The CT scan is an imaging technique that uses X-rays to create images of the inside of your body. 

X-rays travel through the exposed parts of your body. The organs absorb the radiations, and a detector located on the other side of your body collects the unabsorbed rays.

Organs exhibit various densities. For instance, a bone has a denser structure than a soft tissue like conjunctive tissue. Bone density is mainly due to its calcium content. 

Because of this, the bone will absorb a large amount of radiation compared to soft tissue. As a result, the different tissues will appear with varying contrasts on the scan. 

Your radiologist can then assess your organ’s health. For instance:

  • In your lung, a CT scan can detect early-stage lung cancer. Early detection of cancerous nodules can save your life.
  • In your heart, a CT scan can detect aortic aneurysms and calcium within plaques in the coronary arteries.
  • A CT scan can see kidney stones, cysts, enlarged lymph nodes, large masses, an enlarged spleen, and a fatty liver in the abdomen region.

What to expect during the exam.

A full body CT scan is painless and takes about 20 minutes, depending on the CT scanner. It is a non-invasive procedure, and you don’t need any specific preparation. During the scan, just lay on the bed, stay still, and the technologist will take care of the rest.

Full body MRI.

Technician operating full body scan technology

The full body MRI is another imaging technique that enables your doctor to have a detailed look inside your body.

This technique uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves interferences to create images. Contrary to CT scans, MRI image contrast is based on the water content of the tissues.

The magnetic field orients all water molecules in the same direction. When the magnetic field stops, the molecules emit radio waves. This information is computed and results are shown in grayscale images.

With MRI, your radiologist can observe edema, inflammatory site, and other abnormalities like precancerous lesions. 

A full body MRI scan is safe, painless, accurate, ultra-sensitive, fast, and radiation-free.

Ezra provides a state-of-the-art full body scan using MRI. The proposed exam can help your doctor assess your risk of developing cancer in 13 organs such as the brain, thyroid, lung, liver, pancreas, spleen, kidney, bladder, ovaries, and uterus.

What to expect during a full body MRI scan.

MRI technique uses a strong magnetic field. As such, you will be asked to leave metal objects like your watch, mobile phone, jewelry, glasses, and a belt outside the scanner room. You can’t have an MRI exam if you have a pacemaker or any non-removable metal items inside your body. 

Once in the exam room, you will lay on the bed, belly up. The bed will slide into the scanner. It is like a tunnel, so if you are claustrophobic, ask your doctor for medication before your scan. 

The magnet is turned on and off for over 60 minutes. Ezra centers provide earplugs and your favorite Spotify playlist to make the time fly. In addition, Ezra requires that our facility staff and members wear a mask during the scan as a COVID protection measure. MRI-compatible masks are provided to each member on site during the scan.

At times, the radiologist will instruct you to hold your breath so your lung images will look cleaner and more high-quality.

When the scan is done, the radiology staff will help you retrieve your belongings. 

Wait around afterward to get your DVD copy of the MRI session. This information is essential to show to your primary care practitioner.

About two weeks after, an Ezra doctor will follow up with you over the phone. Talk with your primary care doctor about next steps if anything suspicious appears on the MRI scan.

What you need to know about full body scans.

full body scan: woman resting her hand on her hand

Keep the following in mind before your full body scan:

  • X-ray radiation exposure from CT scans is equivalent to what you experience in six months just by living on this planet. However, the therapeutic benefits usually outweigh the risk. 
  • Not all pre-cancer or abnormalities will turn into cancer, especially in healthy people.
  • According to the FDA, the medical benefits of full body scans have not been proven. So, you need to continue annual mammograms to screen for early-stage breast cancer or colonoscopy to screen for early colon cancer signs.
  • Routine full body scans can especially help people at high risk of lung cancer.

Should you get a full body scan?

As an educated person, you should make an educated decision whether or not to receive regular whole-body scans. 

To help you decide, consider your risk factors for developing pathologies like heart diseases and cancer. Besides the following risk factors described below, take five minutes to complete Ezra’s questionnaire.

You should consider getting an annual full body screening if you fit one or more of the following criteria:

  • You have a family history of coronary artery disease.
  • You have a family history of aneurysms.
  • You are overweight.
  • You are sedentary.
  • You are 45+ years old.
  • You have high cholesterol, diabetes, or high blood pressure.
  • You smoke at least one pack of cigarettes per day for a minimum of 10 years. Even if you do not smoke anymore, you still have a higher lung cancer risk.

Additionally, in the COVID-19 pandemic, many MRI and CT scannings for routine cancer screening have been canceled or postponed while medical centers focus their effort on the virus. 

But, as you undoubtedly know, cancer doesn’t wait, and this disruption in preventive medicine could prove dangerous. We encourage you to get your annual cancer screening appointments back on the books. Ezra takes considerable measures to ensure safety for patients and staff, including thorough cleanings between exams, social distancing in waiting rooms, and providing MRI-compatible masks that can be worn during the scan.

In such a time of uncertainty, Ezra gives you peace of mind by offering several affordable scanning options. To begin a proactive, routine cancer screening strategy, talk to your doctor and make an appointment with Ezra.