A few months ago I saw an article in TechCrunch about Ezra, a startup offering a full-body MRI to detect cancer. The costs are out-of-pocket and the options include a whole-body scan for $1950, a torso scan for $1350, and a prostate scan for $675. I went for it.
This service piqued my interest because I have known a number of people who died early from cancer — including my grandfather — and what struck me as odd about many of these people dying from cancer is how slowly they were diagnosed. These people could easily have afforded regular, wide-ranging tests to detect their cancer early but tests weren’t run. Investigative medical tests were’t run because we have systems in place to control the costs of our medical system. Controlling medical costs is logical for the public good-but somewhat less logical for a financially comfortable individual who values their life quite a bit.
I also chose to be tested because I have been having been suffering from upper back pain and haven’t felt particularly comforted by the amount of evidence requested by my primary care physicians-who believe that sitting at a computer for 12 hours a day isn’t particularly healthy for my spine. So I signed up… I picked the $1350 option and booked it for the next time I was flying through New York City.
I was instructed not to drink fizzy water in the day prior to my scan (apparently bubbles can create shadows) — an instruction that seemed somewhat futile and but also comforting in terms of the diagnostic imaging quality that Ezra was looking to achieve. I walked uptown to Lenox Hill Radiology (61 East 77th Street) a nondescript medical facility which is apparently part of the series of imaging centers that works with Ezra. The paperwork on arrival was minimal — I signed about two pieces of paper and was brought in for the scan within about 15 minutes of arriving. The radiologists were not part of Ezra, but they all seemed friendly and interested in the Ezra topic. I imagined that their cheerful attitude stemmed from the fact that it’s less depressing to scan wealthy hypochondriacs instead of terminal cancer patients.
After paperwork, the radiologists directed me to a booth to swap my clothing for a medical gown. I lay down in the MRI machine and stayed as still as possible. The scan was took about an hour. There were times where I was instructed to hold my breath in a pattern to get the clearest possible pictures of my lungs. I found the experience of being scanned relaxing and less draining than conversing with a human doctor.
After the scan there was no check-out process but I waited around afterwards to get a DVD copy of my MRI information. I wasn’t sure I would be able to download a copy from Ezra since it’s still early-days for their customer-facing website. The DVD-creation process took over an hour because they captured such a large number of images.