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Preventative health care: what it's really like to get a full body MRI scan

We put Prescan's total body examination to the test

MRI scanner
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Who reading this doesn't worry about their health on a daily basis? Is it little niggles, or a fully-fledged fear of something you'd rather not name? Until recently, I imagined I had every ailment known to man. Little pains would, in my fevered mind, grow into tumours. So I probably wasn't the best candidate for a total body scan. Too scared.

I'd prepared for my tests at Prescan - specialists in Preventive Medical Examination – by getting myself in a pretty pitiful panic. Did I really want to know? The only sensible answer is, of course, yes. Once the decision is made, Prescan do all the hard work. An advanced MRI will target the brain and images are minutely examined by a neuroradiologist. Abdominal and pelvic organs are scrutinised by a radiologist and your heart is examined by a cardiologist.

cardiologist check© Photo: iStock

Your heart is examined by a cardiologist during a Prescan test

A full blood count, urine and faeces tests check for the usual contenders like thyroid and liver function and many more you've probably never heard of. All these are preceded by an appointment with the GP, a very different experience to being seen in a busy NHS practice. Prescan was born 14 years ago in the Netherlands and has a reassuringly personal touch and family feel, probably because many staff have been there since the start. A consult with the GP has no time limit and you're encouraged to discuss any worry as well as your own and your family history.

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As a hypochondriac and former smoker, my inevitable concern was finding something serious, which happens in a tiny percentage of patients. In which case, the results are sent to your GP and the treatment is taken up by the NHS. The other worry was the possibility of false positives, which I’m assured are extremely rare. Some patients fear the MRI experience. Thanks to the cheerful and kind nurses and also to the scanner which was nowhere near as noisy as I'd expected, it was entirely painless. You are given a panic button to press and constant updates through your earphones. The whole thing took about an hour and claustrophobia was a distant memory.

MRI scanner© Photo: iStock

Prescan's tests involve a full MRI scan

No-one enjoys having their BMI (and the rest!) calculated but Prescan's physiologist made it interesting. Talking me through an ECT and a miracle machine which measures visceral fat (the stuff you don't want around your internal organs), he gave me advice I'm sticking to for the rest of my life, involving sugar and staying properly hydrated among others. The tests took about four hours in total, in the Highgate Private Hospital in North London.

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And the results? I opted to be phoned by their GP just over a week later, reasoning that I'd rather have bad news on home turf. I wonder if Prescan’s celebrity clients like William Baldwin and Samantha Fox felt the same, but my voice was a squeaky octave higher when I answered the call. That reassuring doctor gave me good news and brought tears to my eyes.

Nothing of concern came up (later on I read the very detailed reports, hardly able to believe my luck) BUT cholesterol is a little too high. Advice on diet and a blood test three months down the line I can happily live with. The relief is hard to describe. It is the life-affirming confidence I didn't anticipate. A feeling that I've been given some control and am not scared anymore. I'll do anything it takes to keep feeling this way, and this is why preventive health care is so important.

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