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Patients Are Lining Up For $2,500 Full-Body MRI Scans That Can Detect Cancer Early

Prenuvo MRI machine Courtesy of Prenuvo/CNBC

By Ashley Capoot

While celebrating the July Fourth holiday last year on a boat in Tyler, Texas, Dr. Julianne Santarosa received the results from her full-body MRI scan. What she saw put a damper on the festivities.

Radiologists at Prenuvo, which performed the scan, had identified a nodule in her lungs. Santarosa, who works as a spinal access surgeon in Dallas, could see the spot circled as she looked at the images from the patient portal on her phone.

“I was like, unless I swallowed a taco chip, that something should not be there,” she told CNBC in an interview.

Before paying $2,500 for the Prenuvo scan, Santarosa, who was 41 at the time, hadn’t felt any pain in and around her lungs and had no reason to suspect anything specific was wrong. Rather, she’d felt generally off since going through in vitro fertilization and had a gut feeling she should do the scan after seeing a Prenuvo ad on Facebook.

The day after seeing her Prenuvo results, Santarosa had a follow-up CT scan at a local hospital. The nodule was cancerous. She had it removed the following week.

Curious and concerned patients like Santarosa are flooding Prenuvo’s nine clinics in the U.S. and Canada. There’s so much demand that the 5-year-old Silicon Valley-based company has announced 11 more locations opening by 2024, including one in London and another in Sydney.

Kim Kardashian called Prenuvo a “life saving machine” in an August post on Instagram that’s generated more than 3.4 million likes. Actress and model Cindy Crawford is an investor, alongside Google ex-Chairman Eric Schmidt, 23andMe co-founder Anne Wojcicki and Nest Labs founder Tony Fadell. The company raised $70 million late last year in a funding round led by Felicis Ventures.

Prenuvo CEO Andrew Lacy said he wants to help customers understand what’s going on beneath their skin, which his company’s technology can do by identifying more than 500 conditions like cancer, multiple sclerosis and brain aneurysms. As of now, the scans have a limited audience because they aren’t covered by insurers, requiring patients to pay out of pocket.

For Santarosa, the imaging was worth every penny and more. Her cancer was detected early enough that she didn’t need to undergo treatments like chemotherapy or radiation. More importantly, it hadn’t spread to the point that it was life threatening.

“There’s no screening test for this,” Santarosa said. “I would’ve been stage 4. I would’ve figured this out when I was coughing up blood.”

An MRI, which stands for magnetic resonance imaging, is traditionally used when ordered by a doctor. Interpreting the images is a complex science, and the scan alone can take more than an hour, even if it covers just part of the body.

Prenuvo’s custom MRI machines, which received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2018, can scan a person’s entire body in about an hour. Once a scan is complete, the images are reviewed by one of the company’s 30 licensed radiologists. Customers usually receive their results back within five to 10 business days.

Waitlists are long. According to Prenuvo’s website, the next available slot for a full-body scan in New York is in March. The same is true for the Los Angeles clinic. In the Dallas suburb of Irving, there’s availability starting in mid-December.

Lacy said the business has spiked as awareness in the past 12 months has grown “incredibly.”

“These days, when people ask me what I do, and I say I work at Prenuvo, it’s ‘Oh, I heard that on this podcast,’ or ‘That influencer talked about it,’” he said.

In addition to full-body scans, Prenuvo offers a head and torso scan for $1,800 and a scan of just the torso for $1,000.

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This article originally appeared here and was republished with permission.