In a world where health is paramount, the ability to access advanced diagnostic procedures can make all the difference between early detection and late intervention. Yet, the cost of these potentially life-saving private scans often remains a significant concern for many in the UK.
Whether it is the relief that comes from a clean bill of health or the need to embark on a crucial treatment journey, understanding the cost of private scans is vital for making informed decisions about one’s health and well-being.
This comprehensive guide aims to shed light on the various private scans available in the UK, their costs, and the health conditions they can help identify, empowering you to take control of your health journey with confidence and clarity.
In this guide:
- Why Choose Private Scans?
- What are the Different Types of Scan?
- How much do Scans Cost Privately?
- What Health Conditions do Scans Identify?
- What Factors Affect the Cost of Private Scans?
- Can MRI Scans Help Detect Prostate Cancer?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why Choose Private Scans?
There are several reasons why someone might choose to have a private scan:
- Speed: Private healthcare providers often have shorter waiting times, meaning you can get your scan and results more quickly.
- Choice: You can choose the consultant, the location, and the time of your appointment.
- Comfort: Private clinics and hospitals often have more comfortable facilities.
- Advanced Technology: Some private clinics have access to the latest imaging technology not yet available on the NHS.
What are the Different Types of Scan?
- Ultrasound Scan: This is a non-invasive scan that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the inside of the body. It is commonly used during pregnancy but can also be used to examine organs, muscles, and joints.
- MRI Scan: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body. It is often used to investigate pain, unexplained symptoms, or to monitor an existing condition. MRI scanners can be used to help diagnose musculoskeletal and non-musculoskeletal problems. A musculoskeletal MRI scan can be used to understand the root cause of an issue by exploring damage to muscles, soft tissues, bones, joints and ligaments. Non-musculoskeletal issues including abdominal pain, balance problems, memory issues and headaches can also be explored using an MRI scanner.
- CT Scan: Computed Tomography (CT) scan uses X-rays to create detailed images of the inside of the body. It is often used to diagnose and monitor conditions like cancer, injuries, and infections. In contrast to an MRI scanner, which encases your body in a tube, a CT scanner works by revolving around your body in the form of a doughnut shaped ring.
- X-Ray: This is the most common and widely available type of imaging scan. It uses X-rays to create images of the inside of the body and is often used to examine the bones, chest, and abdomen.
How much do Scans Cost Privately?
The cost of private scans in the UK can vary widely based on several factors, including the type of scan, the location, the healthcare provider, and any additional services or follow-up appointments that may be required. On average, the cost of a private scan can range from £100 to over £2,000.
The cost of a private ultrasound scan can range from £150 to £500. For example, at Bupa, a private ultrasound scan can cost around £200-£400, depending on the type and location.
The cost of a private MRI scan can range from £200 to £1000 for between one and 3 parts of the body. A full body scan costs in the region of £995 to £2250. For example, at Nuffield Health, a private MRI scan can cost between £300-£900, depending on the area being scanned and the location of the clinic.
The cost of a private CT scan can range from £395 to £1200. Some clinics offer a fixed price for a CT scan on one part of the body. For example, at Spire Healthcare, a private CT scan can cost between £600-£1200, depending on the location of the clinic and the area being scanned.
The cost of a private X-ray can range from £100 to £300. For example, at Circle Health, a private X-ray can cost around £150-£300, depending on the area being X-rayed and the location of the clinic.
Factors Affecting the Cost of Private Scans
- Location: The cost of private scans can vary significantly from one location to another. Clinics in London and the South East of England tend to be more expensive than those in other parts of the country.
- Provider: Different private healthcare providers have different pricing structures. Some may offer package deals which include the consultation, the scan and any follow up appointments. It is always advisable to compare prices from different providers before making a decision.
- Type of Scan: As mentioned earlier, different types of scans have different costs associated with them.
- Area of body being scanned: The complexity of the scan and the number of different areas of the body will have a bearing on the cost.
- Contrast Material: Some scans such as CT or MRI scans, may require the use of a contrast material to improve the quality of the images. This can add to the cost of the scan.
- Consultant Fees: The cost of private scans may not include the consultant’s fee, which can add significantly to the overall cost.
What Health Conditions do Scans Identify?
Diagnostic scans such as CT, MRI, Ultrasound and X-rays can identify a wide range of conditions by producing detailed images of many parts of the body. These conditions include damage to bones, injuries to internal organs, problems with blood flow, factors causing hip pain, stroke and cancers.
Specific health conditions that can be identified from an ultrasound scan include pregnancy, gallstones, kidney stones, and abnormalities in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas.
An MRI scan can identify conditions including brain tumours, multiple sclerosis, strokes, and spinal cord injuries. Reports also suggest that MRI scans could help in the early detection of some cancers such as prostate cancer. See the full details of a recent study below.
A CT scan can identify conditions such as lung cancer, heart disease, and internal injuries and bleeding.
Health conditions that can be identified from an X-ray include broken bones, lung infections, and heart conditions.
Full body scans for health screening purposes can be carried out using CT, MRI or PET scans. A PET scan or positron emission tomography, involves injecting a small amount of a radioactive substance into the body, which is then detected by the PET scanner to create images of the inside of the body. It is particularly useful for identifying cancerous cells.
Full-body scans provide a comprehensive view of the entire body, or specific organs and systems, which can help identify any abnormalities or issues that may not have been detected with more targeted scans or tests.
Can MRI scans help detect Prostate Cancer?
New research from UCL, UCLH, and King’s College London indicates that using MRI scans alongside PSA density can detect cancers missed by the PSA blood test alone. The REIMAGINE study, published in BMJ Oncology, assessed the need for further NHS tests by using MRI scans with PSA density, a first of its kind approach.
Out of 29 participants diagnosed with serious prostate cancer, 15 had a ‘low’ PSA score, which under the current system, would not have prompted further investigation.
The current practice involves men over 50 requesting a PSA test if they have symptoms or concerns about prostate cancer. A PSA level of 3ng/ml or above typically triggers additional tests like a biopsy. Although combining PSA tests and/or digital rectal examination with a biopsy, if disease is suspected, reduced prostate cancer mortality by 20% after 16 years, it has been associated with over-diagnosis and over-treatment of lower-risk cancers.
However, introducing MRI as a first step for higher-risk men has prevented unnecessary biopsies for one in four men.
The study invited men aged 50-75 for a screening MRI and PSA test. Among 303 men who completed both tests, 48 (16%) had a positive MRI, indicating potential cancer, despite a median PSA density of 1.2 ng/ml. 32 of these men had PSA levels below the current 3ng/ml benchmark, and therefore, would not have been referred for further investigation under the existing PSA test.
Following NHS assessment, 29 men (9.6%) required cancer treatment, with 15 having serious cancer and a PSA below 3ng/ml. Three men (1%) had low-risk cancer that did not necessitate treatment.
Professor Caroline Moore, chief investigator of the study, noted that over half the men with clinically significant cancer had a PSA below 3 ng/ml, highlighting the need for a new approach to prostate cancer screening. She added that the results suggest MRI could be a more reliable method for early detection of serious cancers, with less than one per cent of participants being ‘over-diagnosed’ with low-risk disease.
The study also found that black men responded to the screening invitation at one-fifth the rate of white men, a significant concern as one in four black men will get prostate cancer, double the rate of men from other ethnicities. The authors emphasised the need for strategies to encourage more black men to come forward for testing in any national screening program.
The next step towards a national prostate cancer screening program, the LIMIT trial, is already underway with a larger participant pool and an effort to recruit more black men through mobile ‘scan in a van’ initiatives. If successful, a national-level trial would be required before standardising prostate cancer screening.
Professor Mark Emberton, senior author of the study, noted that the UK’s prostate cancer mortality rate is double that of countries like the US or Spain due to lower testing levels. He expressed confidence that a national screening program would significantly reduce the UK’s prostate cancer mortality rate, although much work is needed to reach that point.
The research was supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Research UCLH Biomedical Research Centre, the Medical Research Council (MRC), and Cancer Research UK (CRUK).
For full details of the trial click on this link to University College London News
If you would like to read more about prostate MRI scans, click on the link below to our new article:
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the different types of medical scans? There are several types of medical scans, each designed to capture different types of images of the body. Some common ones include X-ray, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), CT (Computed Tomography) scan, PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan, and Ultrasound.
- Are there any risks associated with medical scans? The risks associated with medical scans vary depending on the type of scan. For example, X-rays and CT scans expose you to a small amount of radiation, which carries a very low risk of causing harm. MRI and Ultrasound scans do not use radiation and are considered very safe. However, it’s always important to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider.
- How should I prepare for a medical scan? Preparation for a medical scan varies depending on the type of scan. For example, for some CT scans, you may be asked to fast for several hours before the scan. For an MRI, you’ll need to remove any metal objects as they can interfere with the machine. Your healthcare provider will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for your scan.
- Do medical scans hurt? Most medical scans are painless. However, you may feel some discomfort during the procedure. For example, you may need to lie still for an extended period, or you may find the machine noisy (as in the case of an MRI). If contrast dye is used, you may feel a warm sensation or have a metallic taste in your mouth.
- How long does it take to get the results of a scan? The time it takes to get the results of a scan can vary. Some results may be available immediately, while others may take a few days to be analysed. Your healthcare provider will let you know when you can expect to receive your results.
- Can I have a scan if I am pregnant? Some scans, such as X-rays and CT scans, expose the body to radiation, which can be harmful to a developing foetus. However, Ultrasound and MRI scans do not use radiation and are considered safe during pregnancy. It’s essential to inform your healthcare provider if you are pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant before undergoing any scan.
- Why do I need to drink water before an ultrasound scan? Drinking water before an ultrasound scan helps fill the bladder, which lifts the intestines out of the way and provides a clearer view of the uterus and other pelvic organs. This is particularly important for pelvic ultrasounds.
- What is the difference between a CT scan and an MRI? A CT scan uses X-rays and a computer to create detailed images of the inside of the body, while an MRI uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to create images. CT scans are typically faster and less expensive than MRI scans but expose the body to a small amount of radiation. MRI scans do not use radiation and can provide more detailed images of soft tissues, but they are usually more expensive and take longer.
- What is contrast dye, and why is it used? Contrast dye is a substance that is injected into the body or swallowed before some types of scans to help highlight specific areas or tissues, making them easier to see. Contrast dye can be used in various scans, including CT scans, MRI scans, and X-rays.
- Can I eat or drink before my scan? It depends on the type of scan you are having. For some scans, you may be asked to fast for several hours before the procedure. For others, there may be no restrictions on eating or drinking. Your healthcare provider will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for your scan.
Private scans in the UK offer several benefits over NHS scans, including shorter waiting times and access to the latest technology. However, these benefits come at a cost. It is important to understand the factors that affect the cost of private scans, the health conditions that can be identified with them, and to compare prices from different providers before making a decision. Additionally, it is important to check what is included in the price and whether there are any additional fees, such as consultant fees, that may not be included in the initial quote.