Prenuvo offers an in-depth look into your health — there's a hefty price tag, but is it worth it?
What It Is: Prenuvo provides whole-body imaging for the early detection of cancer and 500 other conditions including tumors, aneurysms and cysts.
Who Tried It: Sheila Cosgrove Baylis, Senior News Editor for Health
When Maria Menounos could not find the source of her intense abdominal pain after doctors' visits and a CT scan, she got a full-body MRI with Prenuvo. The test revealed a 3.9 cm mass on her pancreas, with a subsequent biopsy confirming that it was a Stage 2 pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, a form of cancer.
Because she caught it at an early stage, Menounos, 45, was able to have the cancer removed through surgery and did not have to do chemotherapy. She currently does not need additional treatment, but will need a scan each year.
When I got the chance to try the scan myself, I felt trepidation. What if my chronic lower back pain was cancer? Eventually though, reason prevailed and I decided it was better to know one way or another.
I had visited several doctors about the pain, and had had an ultrasound when they thought it could be due to ovarian cysts. That was not the cause, and subsequent doctors suggested it could be sciatica or just plain aging. Many were willing to give me pain medication (which I did not end up taking), but none of them prescribed an MRI. I hadn't even thought of it as an option.
Andrew Lacy, Founder and CEO of Prenuvo told PEOPLE it's a common but serious problem that it takes so long to get diagnosed. “We are committed to shifting the healthcare paradigm from reactive to proactive," he says in a statement. "Waiting to address health issues once they have already taken hold leads to delayed diagnoses, costly medical treatments and diminished quality of life for patients. Prenuvo gives people the opportunity to make lifestyle modifications before potential health concerns become dire, and ultimately lead happier, healthier lives.”
When I got to Prenuvo, the friendly staff asked if I was claustrophobic. I'm not, but I would suggest that if you are at all uncomfortable in tight spaces, say yes to this question, because the full-body scan is an hour long and you are asked to lay completely still in a tight tube. They have some options for anxiety management during the scan if this is an issue for you.
My problem was with the deafening sound of the electromagnetic coils wonking and blerping as they did their thing (yes, those are the technical terms). They had given me headphones and Netflix to watch, but entertainment was no match for the loud growls from the enormous machine. The kind technician was also giving me instructions from time to time, so among the Willy Wonka-like bangs and clangs, the music and the talking, I was overwhelmed,
Despite my whiny complaints, the scan was totally worth it. We found I have Spondylolisthesis, or slippage of the vertebrae, and a Tarlov cyst in the spine. Both are minor to moderate concerns, but are most certainly causing the pain. Although it's not cancerous, the cyst can grow and create additional problems, so I plan to keep an eye on it.
It may have taken me quite a few more doctors' visits to get to that conclusion, and finding the cyst would have required a scan anyway. I felt like I saved a lot of time and aggravation, although the cost of the scan is huge: $2,500 for a full-body scan, $1,800 for head and torso and $1,000 for just the torso.
This cost seems astronomical at face value, and it is certainly a ridiculous fee if it turns out there's nothing wrong with you. But, if there is an issue, even a minor one, the cost could end up being less than hours of doctors' visits and copays, exploratory surgeries, wrong diagnoses and treatments, or treatments that are needed when the pathology has progressed into a serious problem.
The health system is broken for many reasons, one of them being the lack of emphasis on prevention. If there was a way to extend these scans to folks who do not have the means to pay for them, it could revolutionize the healthcare system.
I've argued before that out-of-pocket preventative healthcare may be worth it for moderate-income families in the long term, although Americans should not have to budget in expensive boutique screenings when they are already paying for insurance and high deductibles.
But for now, celebrities like Menounos, Paris Hilton, Cindy Crawford and Miranda Kerr are the figures you'll see on social media who are utilizing this preventative care, although many, many people could benefit from it.
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