Preventive scans and screening services are important parts of care that allow you to take a proactive approach to your health. You might think that medical imaging scans are reserved for times of obvious symptoms. But getting medical imaging scans before symptoms start—when you’re symptom-free and feeling healthy—can help you prevent diseases from progressing or causing serious complications. Preventive scans can detect potential disease early, and possibly help you create a course of action to reverse damage. Learn more about how you can utilize preventive medical imaging to detect risk factors and disease early, make educated adjustments to your lifestyle, and stay on top of your health.
What is preventive medical imaging?
Preventive scans are integral to preserving your health, uncovering diseases, and staying informed about your own body. Preventive screening is a part of overall preventive care and may include use of medical imaging tools like MRIs, CT scans, mammograms, ultrasounds, X-rays, and more. Imaging scans like those mentioned can identify risk factors, diagnose diseases, and spot abnormalities in your body early. Preventive scanning has a clear purpose: to catch dangerous diseases and abnormalities in your body while they are still in their most treatable and curable stages.
If you regularly visit your physician, you might already participate in some forms of preventive care, including full-body physicals, vaccinations, routine blood tests, female well checks, etc. Preventive scans can help your doctor establish a baseline picture of your health for future reference, in case they need to look at how something has changed over time.
Early detection through preventive imaging can help boost treatment success rates for some conditions. Catching abnormalities in the body early can give you access to a broader range of treatment options, many of which may be less invasive than late-stage disease treatment options. Discovering abnormalities through preventive scans may also increase your survival rate for dangerous conditions.
Doctors recommend that people undergo certain preventive scans at specific age thresholds. For example, doctors typically suggest that women 40 and over receive annual mammograms, and that all people over the age of 50 receive colonoscopies every 10 years.
Depending on your medical history, family history, and risk factors, your doctor may suggest that you receive certain medical imaging scans before the standard suggested age. However, before choosing to get any type of full-body preventive scan, make sure you discuss it with your doctor. Certain preventive scans are less beneficial than others, depending on your particular situation.
Some preventive body scans include:
- Preventive MRIs
- Preventive CT scans
- Preventive ultrasounds
- Preventive x-rays
- Preventive breast cancer screenings and scans (including mammograms)
- Preventive bone density scans
Why you might want to ask your doctor about preventive scans
Aside from the understandable desire to catch a disease in an early (treatable, curable) phase, there are plenty of other reasons you may want to schedule a preventive medical imaging scan. Some of the most common reasons (many of which revolve around risk factors for disease) include:
- Concern regarding diseases that run in your family
- Known genetic predispositions
- Deciding to be proactive in your healthcare
What can preventive scans detect?
Preventive scans can detect a wide variety of abnormalities in the body, including multiple forms of cancer, diseases such as osteoporosis, and more. MRIs can detect irregularities in many parts of the body, including the:
- Adrenal glands
- Cervical spine
- Lumbar spine
- Thoracic spine
How much does a preventive scan cost?
The cost of a preventive scan will vary based on the type of scan you’re receiving, your age, your provider, your location, whether you have health insurance, whether your health insurance benefits cover preventive screening, and other factors. If you’re using health insurance, you can call your insurance company directly to get a clearer picture of your financial responsibility. If you’re electing to pay out-of-pocket, contact your imaging center directly to discuss pricing and potential payment plans (many centers offer them!).
Preventive scanning: What to consider
Preventive scanning looks promising for preventing and treating various dangerous conditions. However, more studies are needed on certain methods of preventive imaging to determine whether they’re beneficial in the long run.
If you are thinking of receiving a preventive scan, you may want to consider the following points:
- Scanning (particularly CT scanning) of high-risk individuals predisposed to specific diseases, like lung cancer or colon cancer, is still being studied.
- The radiation emitted from some scans, especially X-rays and CT scans, might contribute to a small possibility of developing cancer later in life, whereas MRIs and ultrasounds do not emit ionized radiation. For this reason, if you are considering getting a preventive scan, your doctor may suggest that you opt for MRIs or ultrasounds rather than radiation-emitting scans.
- Asymptomatic scanning is still being studied, and scan.com suggests that you speak with your doctor before deciding to schedule any type of preventive test. Your doctor will be able to suggest the best course of action based on your current health and medical history.
Can I get a preventive medical imaging scan without health insurance?
Yes, you can receive and pay for a preventive scan without health insurance. This is sometimes referred to as “private pay”.
Health insurance carriers are required by law to cover eligible preventive healthcare screenings at 100% of their cost. However, eligibility depends on your age and the type of scan in question. If you wish to receive an ineligible preventive medical imaging scan, you may have to pay out-of-pocket.
How to find a preventive scanning center near you
You can use scan.com to easily search for and discover preventive scan providers and radiologists in your area. Use our scan search tool to find a preventive scan center that can help you accomplish your healthcare goals.
- USF. Preventive Screening Guidelines for Physicians.
- FDA.gov. Full-Body CT Scans: What You Need to Know.
- Cigna.com. What is Preventive Care?