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Your guide to different types of body scans and their purposes

Key takeaways:

  • Each imaging test has different uses and limitations.
  • X-rays are used in a CT scan and mammogram.
  • MRI is preferred for soft tissue imaging.
  • Ezra scans offer multiple modalities for more comprehensive screening.

Do you love the idea of getting a body scan but don’t know which type of body scan to choose? Imaging plays an important role in modern medicine. Today’s most cutting-edge imaging techniques include X-rays, CT scans, PET scans, ultrasounds, and MRIs. But where do you begin? 

To start with, each radiology technique or modality is unique in terms of the images it gathers, equipment it uses, and tissue changes it may help find. When it comes to the types of body scan used in elective health screening like Ezra’s comprehensive Full Body and Full Body Plus scan services, X-rays (CT and mammogram) and MRIs are chosen  based  on the body part being scanned.

X-ray as a type of body scan.

X-rays are a type of high-frequency electromagnetic energy used in medical imaging.When you are getting an X-ray, the technician will place the body part to be examined between the X-ray machine and a metal plate. X-rays are selectively affected by different tissues as they pass through your body. This causes shadows to appear in the resulting images. 

Why don’t all body scans use X-rays?

X-rays aren’t ideal for the comprehensive types of body scan needed for multiple organ screening due to cumulative  radiation exposure. And like all imaging techniques X-rays are better for imaging some areas than others. 

X-ray pros and cons. 

X-rays are a non-invasive, generally painless, and well-established method to evaluate specific organs for changes that may indicate disease. X-ray technology is also used in computed tomography (CT scans) and mammography, which we’ll discuss separately in a moment.

Beyond radiation exposure, there are other limitations in terms of diagnostic imaging. For one, typical X-rays aren’t great at spotting changes in soft tissue. However, the CT scan and mammogram can use X-rays with specialized equipment and software that help them screen for diseases like breast cancer, lung cancer, heart disease, and more. 

3D mammogram.

When discussing types of body scans, it’s important to include yearly mammography for women over the age of 40. The Ezra Mammogram is a 3D mammogram that uses state-of-the-art technology that uses X-rays to create a 3D model of your breasts. It may help spot abnormalities, which might indicate the presence of cancer or changes in the breast tissue. 

3D mammography involves only a small amount of radiation exposure — even less than a standard chest X-ray. In general, mammogram can be considered for women 40 and over, but you should discuss breast cancer screening with your primary care provider to take your medical and family history into account. Your insurance or health savings plan may cover or reimburse you for all or a portion of the cost.

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Low-dose chest CT scan.

The LDCT is the only medical imaging modality recommended by the U.S. Preventative Task Force for lung cancer screening. 

Low-dose CT scan is an imaging technique that uses X-rays to create images of your chest cavity, including your lungs. The images may spot differences in density of tissues that may help radiologists find soft tissue abnormalities indicative of cancer tumors or other disease. Unlike traditional CT scans, the LDCT scan uses lower doses of ionizing radiation, therefore may pose less of a risk.

LDCT creates a three-dimensional model of the chest by taking multiple pictures at different angles across your chest while you lay on a table that slides in and out of the scanner. New imaging technology makes it possible to look at cross-sectional images. They may be able to spot changes sooner when the potential cancer is smaller and easier to treat. Depending on your medical and smoking history, as well as your understanding of the risks and benefits of x-ray radiation exposure, you could benefit from LDCT lung cancer screening.

Coronary calcium scoring.

This is a non-invasive test that uses X-rays to look for signs of calcium in the blood vessels that feed your heart muscle. 

Your coronary arteries are responsible for carrying oxygen-rich blood into the heart muscle. Blockages may cause coronary artery disease (CAD). Currently, CAD is the most common form of heart disease and the leading cause of heart attacks and chest pain. The good news is coronary artery calcium scoring might hint that there’s a problem before you have any symptoms. 

Types of body scans using MRI.

Types of body scans: MRI machine

MRI body scans at Ezra are quick, comprehensive, and convenient. And nothing compares to the peace of mind you feel from knowing that you’ve just screened up to 13 organs for potential abnormalities.

To get an MRI, you’ll lie on a padded table that shuttles your body in and out of the tunnel of an MRI scanner which houses a powerful magnet. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), unlike tests using X-rays, does not expose you to harmful ionizing radiation. Instead, it uses a magnetic field and radio waves to measure the water content in your tissues. Computers use the data gathered to create detailed images. Technicians can view the scan in real-time and may make adjustments to your positioning to ensure the highest quality results. 

MRI benefits.

MRIs provide high-quality images when evaluating soft tissues like muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Radiologists can often distinguish tumors and blood vessel defects like aneurysms from normal healthy tissue. Basically, any organs or tissue with a high water content is suitable for MRI imaging. MRI can be a useful method for scanning the brain, too, as it can distinguish grey matter from white matter. 

MRI limitations and risks.

While the magnets used in MRI machines are harmless to the human body, an MRI scan may not be the best choice if you have:

  • Implanted metal, including some types of medical devices, pacemakers, dental implants, fixed dental appliances
  • Non-removable metal body modification
  • Some types of tattoos and permanent makeup

Additionally, MRI is not the best choice for finding microcalcifications present in some cases of early breast cancer. Traditional MRIs are challenging for patients with medical conditions like claustrophobia, certain disabilities, and those who cannot lay still for up to an hour. However, the 3T MRI alleviates some of these limitations since 3T MRI has a larger bore than traditional MRI scanners  and may offer shorter scan times.

Types of body scans we offer at Ezra.

With various types of body scans available, it’s helpful to have a healthcare service you can trust. Ezra’s Full Body and Full Body Plus scans are designed to help spot potential abnormalities in multiple organs throughout your body using MRI, which has no harmful radiation. And for areas and situations where MRI isn’t the best type of imaging, your healthcare provider may ask for an LDCT, or calcium scoring. 

From offering the types of body scans that give you more insight into your health to providing shorter scan times, roomier MRIs, and creature comforts like pajamas, slippers, and Spotify-enabled headphones,* Ezra is committed to a patient-centric approach to healthcare. 

*available at select locations