8 Feb, 2024

What Are the Different Types of Private Health Screening Scans? Your Guide to Health Checks and What They Show

In the UK, someone is diagnosed with cancer every 90 seconds, and 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime. The disease affects so many people, at different stages, and from all walks of life.

It can sometimes feel like the odds are not in our favour, or that how cancer affects us is completely out of our hands. But, there are plenty of opportunities available to check for cancer, and spot any warning signs early to maximise the potential for treatment.

The King’s recent cancer diagnosis as a secondary finding at an early stage has drawn more public attention to the benefits of early detection. One way to spot any causes for concern early is through regular screening scans and health assessments, to get a fuller understanding of your baseline overall health and notice any changes more quickly and easily.

By taking a proactive approach to healthcare as part of your everyday lifestyle, it is possible to address concerns before they develop further, preventing potential issues in the future, and reducing the risk of them returning.

What is a screening?

A screening is a type of health test that is usually done at regular intervals, to help spot any anomalies or risks of developing a condition before any symptoms are visible.

This means that even someone who appears completely healthy from the outside can have some tests done to identify whether they have any unknown or potential healthcare conditions that might be beneath the surface.

Common reasons for screening programmes are for spotting cancer early to maximise the opportunities for successful treatment, identifying aneurysms (abnormal swelling or bulging of a blood vessel) before a rupture, or identifying changes to cells that could lead to cervical cancer in the case of cervical smear screening.

Some types of screening involve blood tests or physical examinations. However, many of them rely on medical imaging scans to collect pictures of the inside of your body, that are analysed and interpreted by a radiologist to spot any causes for concern.

Sometimes, scans form part of a screening, such as for prostate screening, which can use physical assessment via digital rectal examination (DRE), PSA blood tests, and MRI scanning.

What are the different types of private health screenings?

There are a range of private health screening products available to purchase without a referral, to help you get answers about your health quickly and efficiently. They can be offered at shorter intervals to NHS screenings, and from earlier ages in some cases, giving you more control over your health monitoring on your own timeframes that fit around your lifestyle.

Here’s a lowdown of the screening scans available to book on Scan.com.

Private mammogram scans

Mammogram scans are a type of breast examination, using X-ray imaging to investigate the structure and health of the breast tissue, and identify any anomalies such as lumps or calcifications.

Scan.com offers mammograms to women over the age of 40, who have not already had a mammogram in the last twelve months. This is because mammograms use small doses of X-ray radiation, and therefore should not be undertaken more than once a year except in rare cases.

Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death in women under 50 in the UK with the incidence rate of invasive breast cancer increasing in recent years. This is one reason why accessible screening programmes for under 50's are even more important.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has recently advocated for screening mammograms starting at age 40, but mammograms are only routinely offered by the NHS every three years to women over the age of 50, until they reach the age of 71. After that, they can self-refer for a mammogram if they would like one.

The problem with this is that some women want more regular screenings, especially if they are concerned about a family history of breast cancer, have had breast cancer in the past, or are under the age of 50 and could be at risk of breast cancer but are too young to access NHS screenings yet.

What are the benefits of early and yearly private mammograms?

According to the USPSTF's research, 19% more lives could be saved through mammogram screenings beginning from age 40, with one year of life gained for every 20 women who undergo annual screening in their 40s. As there are more aggressive cases of breast cancer becoming prevalent in this age group, offering earlier screenings speeds up access to treatment and could improve patient outcomes.

However, women under the age of 40 tend to have denser breast tissue and therefore a mammogram is understood to be less effective in this age group, which is why our screening focus is women aged 40-50 years old. If you are in this age range, booking a private mammogram online is simple and there are a range of convenient locations.

Private prostate MRI screenings

Recent research called the IMPACT Study revealed that more than half of men whose MRI results detected cancer had normal PSA blood test results. This highlights the important role of MRI in avoiding false negatives from blood tests. A false negative is where patients receive an ‘all clear’ result when actually there may be cause for concern.

Prostate examination using MRI is a quick, non-invasive and safe way to check the health and size of the prostate, and look for any anomalies that could lead to cancer. Private prostate cancer screenings use a type of MRI specifically for the prostate called MPM - multiparametric - MRI.

While the NHS has plans to roll out a prostate MRI screening programme, this is not currently available, but regular MRI screenings can be done privately.

Why should you consider a prostate MRI Scan for screening?

Your risk of prostate cancer can be higher if one of your close family members has had prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is also more common in older men between the ages of 75 and 79. Your genetics, ethnicity, hormone levels and being overweight can put you at increased risk of prostate cancer.

If you’ve got a family history of prostate cancer, have any urinary or prostate symptoms, or want to get a baseline measurement of your prostate size and health, a screening scan could be of benefit. It's easy to book a private prostate screening online and could help improve your outcomes if any anomalies are discovered.

Private full body MRI scans

MRI scans are a form of imaging that provide detailed and high quality images across large areas of the body, composed of different types of tissues. That makes MRI a great candidate for a whole body health check.

A full body scan using MRI covers the key essential organs, blood vessels, and structures of the body from your head to your pelvis. This means you can spot early signs of cancer, aneurysms, abnormal growths and lesions, giving you more treatment opportunities and baseline health measurements you can refer back to each year to maintain your health and wellbeing.

The scan takes just 60 minutes, and can be done every year. You can book a full body MRI scan easily online via Scan.com.

Benefits of health check screening scans

Considering a health screening can feel daunting, especially if you are concerned about the results. All the tests we offer include clinical guidance to help you make sure you get the right scan and that you feel confident and clear about your results.

Here are some further benefits of screening scans:

  • They can give peace of mind that you are in good health and anything you’re concerned about is investigated promptly.

  • If something does appear to be an anomaly, it is possible to act on it quickly, sooner than you would have if you had waited for symptoms to develop.

  • They provide baseline results about your health that can be referred to regularly.

  • You can get reassurance about a condition that may be in your family history.

  • You will receive a personalised results report that you can refer back to as a baseline for years to come.

  • You can get an overview of your full body health in a one short appointment.

Drawbacks of a private health screening

Imaging scans are medical procedures that need to be carefully considered, due to the use of radiation in some cases (such as for mammograms), as well as making sure you're equipped to discuss, understand, and act upon your results. This is because, while most screenings don't flag anything of concern, they can have findings that need further investigation or support.

That's why our scans include guidance and support from clinicians to make sure a scan is right for you. Mammogram scans are reviewed by the breast specialist clincians at the partner scanning centre for the same purposes. This is to make sure you’re getting a scan that that it is safe for you to have, and is the correct way to get the answers you’re looking for.

If you have specific concerns about your health, or symptoms of cancer, it is important not to wait for health screens. Instead, you should choose a diagnostic scan targeted to your specific health concerns.

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