How we screen for disease frustrates me.
Specific screenings (only available for isolated parts of our bodies) are recommended for people over 40 or 50, but I’m surrounded by people who got cancer far earlier than that.
Diagnostic testing is oftentimes seen as a last resort. Nagging symptoms are met with a “wait and see” approach when technology to definitively tell you what is happening exists. The machine is literally just down the hall, but access to it is guarded.
Instead of leveraging technology to preemptively identify early, highly-treatable disease, we wait for masses to grow and interrupt our body’s function before we know anything is wrong. Then we get that same test we originally wanted but weren’t sick enough to get.
That’s why I got excited when a friend told me about Prenuvo.
Prenuvo is a private screening option for over 500 cancers, diseases and aneurysms. It uses new MRI technology (no contrast injection, no radiation) to deliver over 2,000 crystal-clear images of what is occurring in your body. The goal of the company is to help people identify issues when they are highly treatable and survivable, before they become a health crisis.
They are speaking my language.
Prenuvo finds cancer in 1 out of every 20 people scanned, and 95% of the time it’s stage 1. Hallelujah.
5% of their findings are cancers. 1% are aneurysms.
Prenuvo’s founding Radiologist, Dr. Attariwala, has a powerful “why” for developing the technology. A close friend of his died of late-stage cancer when her symptoms were dismissed after recurring visits to the doctor - with no diagnostic testing. Knowing that her story could have had a different outcome if she had the information she needed sooner, Dr. Attariwala worked for years on superior MRI technology.
Prenuvo has 6 locations and are opening up 10 new ones across North America. They recently opened a clinic in Los Angeles - within an hour of our home - and I put the hard sell on my husband about why we needed to try this.
Some people I told about getting scanned were confused. Most were very intrigued and positive, but some would say “nothing’s wrong - why would you spend money to do this?” Or my least favorite statement: “I don’t really want to know if something is wrong with me. Do you?!”
Um, yes. A thousand times yes.
My husband is just shy 45 and has had a run-in with an undetected, life-threatening vascular issue that he thankfully survived. It still required some negotiating to get him to see the value in getting a preventative full body scan. This is, afterall, a paradigm shift in how we think of healthcare - and it’s costly. I did my best to slowly wear him down: the spike in cancer in people under 50, his brush with a near-fatal issue that was never fully explained or monitored - far from a “closed case” in my mind.
Then there’s my side of the “why.” Each year I get a breast MRI because I’m at high risk for breast cancer. I also get an annual mammogram. And I usually get some kind of imaging (Xray, MRI) on my lower back, and separately on my abdomen for different issues being monitored. Mind you - these are ordered by different doctors, and done on separate occasions (each requiring weeks of waiting for the appointment to get the imaging order, then another waiting period to book each MRI). I also have to pay separate fees for each of these scans (which are still high after our very expensive insurance is applied).
I already go into an MRI machine 1-3 times a year (with contrast) — but it’s not comprehensive. They only look at the small portion of my body, according to the order. I end up spending about $1,500 out of pocket a year on these tests - far from cheap, and far from comprehensive. What if I could knock them out at once, in under an hour, on my terms?
Thankfully, I was able to get the husband “there.”
At the end of the day, it’s the power of peace of mind for us - and the fact we are lucky enough to live during a time where this technology exists, and we are fortunate enough to have access to it. It was time to book it.
We logged on to the Prenuvo site and selected the location, type of scan, and time we’d like to visit. I called their client services line to see if there was an incentive for two of us booking at the same time - there is. $200 off per person per couple - and the discounts go up from there if you come with a larger group.
It was an easy process to get booked. I answered some screening questions over the phone (i.e.: ensuring that I was not claustrophobic or had any eye injuries involving metals). Additionally, at some point before the scan, we each had to fill out an online medical history form, which was smooth and took about 15 minutes each.
We booked our appointment for a Saturday morning, so it wouldn’t interfere with work. In the name of Valentine’s Day weekend we made a getaway out of it, statying a nearby hotel for a night. Just two parents in their 40s having a romantic weekend around their full body scans.
We got the kids to the grandparents and drove an hour into Santa Monica. We couldn’t eat or drink anything other than water for 4 hours prior to our scan, so the lack of caffeine and breakfast was a little rough - but I was excited. If you’re someone like me who likes answers and feeling on top of your health, heading to a no-injection, whole-body scan felt like heading to the airport for a vacation.
We arrived at a beautiful, new, airy space that felt more like spa-meets-startup than a medical facility. We were greeted and checked in, and shown to our rooms to get ready. We each got a private changing room to place our belongings and get into Prenuvo scrubs - no paper gowns. Right on time, we were each taken to our MRI rooms. There are two machines at the LA location, so we were able to get scanned at the same time.
I walked down the hallway past a set of glass doors into the room. The only thing in it was a Prenuvo-branded MRI machine. The Tech was helpful and walked through the process, asking if I had been in an MRI machine before - which I had a dozen or so times. He explained that this MRI was slightly different.
First, there is no injection. The machine uses technology that doesn’t require contrast. Fabulous, I hate needles.
There are also pieces that go on top of your body while you’re on the table. The first was a slightly bendable piece that felt like a weighted blanket placed over my torso. The second was a plastic piece that snapped in over my head. The face portion of the headpiece was open and did not physically touch my head. It was like a frame that went on the outside edges of my face, forehead and jawline.
The Tech placed noise-blocking headphones on me, and asked if I was comfortable or needed a blanket. He placed a ball in my right hand with a button in it in case at any point I wanted to stop. I gave it a honk for good measure and we got started.
Now that I was all set - what did I want to watch on Netflix?
The full scan takes about 50 minutes (torso-only or head & torso scans are shorter). Entertainment helps! I opted for my fave - Seinfeld reruns. A guilty pleasure I never get the chance to do unless I’m immobile and unable to do anything but breathe and blink. Perfect. I slid into the tube on my back and started The Gymnast Episode.
Like any MRI, it’s noisy. I did, however, find the Prenuvo experience less noisy, like a dull background noise when I had the headphones on. There were a series of breath holds at various times in the session. A recorded voice would come into my headphones directing me to breathe and hold my breath. It was simple and straightforward.
The Tech also checked in via my headphones throughout the scan. What I thought was helpful were the timechecks. He mentioned “26 minutes to go” at one point, and a very welcomed “just 5 minutes left” just as I was starting to get stiff. 5 minutes? I could do that. Before I knew it, the scan was done.
I slid out of the machine, the Tech removed the head and the torso pieces. I got up in my scrubs and headed back to the private room to change back into my clothes.
Water, snacks and coffee were there waiting for me - and I was definitely ready. It took a minute to get reacclimated to the bright Prenuvo office space after being still and in the MRI machine, but after a couple of minutes I felt great. My husband came out of his scan and felt slightly disoriented, but some water and food quickly fixed that. He is tall and any medical imaging can be a bit cumbersome for him - but he made it out.
At the checkout counter two folders were waiting for us with next steps.
We were told that we would get our full reports within the next 2 weeks. Once our reports were complete, a Nurse Practitioner would book a 30 minute phone call with each of us to go through our reports. If the Radiologist recommended any follow-ups, or regular monitoring of specific issues, we would be made aware during the phone call. We would also be sent a CD of our complete imaging to keep, and copies could be sent to any physician we requested.
All-in, the process was about an hour and fifteen minutes. Now, we wait for our results.
I often say I have the best job in the world because I get to do my favorite thing: hear about people overcoming the odds to survive and do great things. Our Survivor Stories are full of people who had terminal diagnoses; those who knew something was wrong but couldn’t get answers, then had to fight for their lives and come back from the brink. But the best stories? The ones where they caught cancer at stage 0 or stage 1. They’re missing the cliffhangers and drama of the later-stage stories - and that’s just the point. They had surgery and were able to get on with their lives without chemo, radiation, a lifetime of drugs, or watching their family break apart from the stress of cancer. More stage 0 and stage 1 diagnoses is my wish for what cancer looks like, before it is cured. This is the future.
We can eradicate cancer death with early detection - period. Prenuvo helps people (1 in 20 scanned) detect cancer early, before it’s a crisis. If you have access to this, I highly recommend doing it. It will save lives. It will also force eventual change in our reactive medical culture to focus on prevention (and saving money for everyone: patient, insurance company, and doctors).
Prenuvo has a seamless customer experience and the latest technology - setting them up to be a leader in this space and lead the charge of personal health empowerment through preventative action.
Once they accomplish that monumental task, it can be made accessible to more people.
After I booked and paid for our scans, I reached out to the Prenuvo team to learn more. I was not compensated in any way to get scanned with them or write this blog.
Since I work for a cancer non-profit and it’s Cancer Prevention Month, I figured there was no harm in asking if there was something we could partner on.
Thankfully, there was.
Do Cancer has purchased a full body scan that we are giving away for Cancer Prevention month - and Prenuvo has generously offered to match our gift. We are partnering to giveaway two free full-body scans ($5,000 value). We will be launching this giveaway on social @do.cancer and @prenuvo.
In addition to the giveaways, we are also extending our savings link if you would like to try Prenuvo. By using the Do Cancer link, or mentioning Do Cancer when you book over the phone, you can save $300. Booking link: prenuvo.com/DoCancer
I invite you to check them out - and save some money while you could be saving your life.