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Growing attention around full-body MRI scans

Eric Hipple
Posted at 12:13 PM, Sep 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-21 17:24:34-04

A growing number of startups and celebrities are now touting full-body MRI scans.

The clinics say the goal is to give you advanced warning about certain health issues like cancer before you have symptoms.

“This is a new kind of safety net that previously has really only been offered to people at significant known risk of disease, and part of the goal is to extend that safety net to people with lower risk,” said Dr. Daniel Sodickson, a professor at the NYC Grossman School of Medicine.

Ezra is one of the companies offering full-body MRI scans.

You get the 30-minute scan in an imaging center run by radiologists.

Those doctors will then analyze the results with the help of artificial intelligence algorithms.

“It's a feeling of being empowered that it's something I can do without a doctor's referral,” said Linda Lope who received a full-body scan.

She tells us the cost was worth it.

It can be $1,000 for a scan.

Ezra is trying to get insurance companies to pay for the scans in the future.

But Dr. Mirza Rahman with the American College of Preventive Medicine has other concerns beyond the cost.

“It's important to think of this as looking for disease, which we don't believe occurs randomly, but it occurs in particular areas, and that's the challenge of these full-body scans. In addition to being very expensive, they are doing things that may provide no benefit, although then you give patients that perception,” said Rahman.

He says more studies are needed to show these scans are effective in prolonging someone's life.

He recommends people follow the guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force about which types of screenings to get and when to get them.

Doctors like Sodickson say other concerns about full-body MRIs can be addressed.

“The best way to rule out false positives, which is what those who argue against these kinds of scans are concerned about, the best way to rule out false positives is actually to image frequently because the more we see you, the better we understand your particular anatomy and the less we actually see that's of concern,” said Sodickson.

Dr. Rahman says focusing on prevention is your best bet.

Those are the things you've heard before that include exercise, getting enough sleep, eating healthy, managing your stress, and staying socially connected.