You may have seen Kim Kadashian try out Prenuvo, a full-body MRI scan that claims to detect serious illnesses. (Her mother, Kris Jenner, has also tried it.) Although it may seem like a buzzy, Kardashian-Jenner-approved new wellness movement that has one very Although they are expensive, they aim to be more than that. “We want you to be informed so you can take charge of your own health,” says Andrew Lacy, founder and CEO of Prenuvo. The clinics opened their doors in 2018, but recently (probably thanks to a number of celebrities and influencers who have posted about it) more and more people are curious about Prenuvo.
I tried the scan myself to understand the hype. The question I was asked most often was: Are you afraid to see what they find? That was not me. I jokingly told my friends that the body part I wanted to learn more about was my liver because I drank a lot in my early and mid-20s. But since the family history is mostly healthy, I wasn’t too worried about what would come up. I was more interested in what the scan actually was and how this MRI would be different from all other MRIs I have ever experienced. (I had an MRI of the lower half of my body in the past for a leg fracture.) It was definitely different, here’s how:
The 60-minute scan is intended to be “a preventive health measure.” Essentially, there are three different MRI scans: a torso scan, a head-torso scan, and a full-body scan, the most comprehensive of all. The MRI scan is designed to access your anatomy using image sequencing to detect signs in the body, such as inflammation, which could provide early detection of life-threatening diseases. A full-body scan to capture images of the nervous system, respiratory system, reproductive system, digestive system, and more that are later evaluated.
The scan detects irregularities by examining inflammation in the body. “The connection between inflammation and cancer is well established in medical science. Certain cancers, such as Helicobacter pylori-infected stomach cancer and human papillomavirus-related cervical cancer, result directly from inflammation, while others are more common in people with inflammation. Our bodies fight inflammation by producing high levels of reactive oxygen, which can damage cells while promoting cell proliferation,” says Lacy.
How much about my body is too much to know? I kept asking. But given the current state of our healthcare in America, especially as a black woman who often has to advocate for myself in the doctor’s office, there was a felt sense of calm knowing that there are options when I have questions about my body they are not answered.
Before I headed out to have my scan, I was emailed a medical report a few days earlier asking about my parents’ and grandparents’ medical history, their ethnicity, and a long list of other health questions related to personal health such as allergies, previous illnesses and more. On the day of my scan, I fasted for four hours before arriving so that there was no food in my digestive system that would have caused confusion during the scans. (Unfortunately, my food didn’t digest well even after fasting, so it showed up as a minor finding in my digestive system.) When I arrived at the Prenuvo facility for my exam, I was taken to a room where I changed into a gown and took off all jewelry and clothing, just like with any other MRI scan. As I entered the scanning room, I was greeted by a large, circular MRI machine. I’m not claustrophobic in any way, but if I were, I’d probably be a little afraid to enter the machine at first glance. Honestly, the only reason I took a photo next to the machine was because I saw Kim Kardashian and other people taking it online.
Before starting the scan, I had the option to select a Netflix show or movie, which was probably my favorite part of the scan because it made the hour go by much faster. Afterwards, the scanning technician sat me comfortably on the scanning table and gave me a panic button to hold. I was also given headphones so I could listen to the show of my choice and hear the technician throughout the scan. I was then instructed to breathe in and out while holding my breath for a few seconds: “When you breathe, your diaphragm pushes up and down on your stomach, so the organs you have in your stomach are continually compressed.” Time you breathe in and out. We want you to hold your breath so your lungs get really small and we have a really clear visualization of your stomach,” Lacy says. There were a few times when my pictures had to be retaken because my breath hold was wrong. Things got a little warm in the last ten minutes of the scan, and that’s when the countdown in my head started thinking: I think I’m ready to get out of this machine. After the scan was completed, I was given some snacks and water. Then it was a waiting game.
About 48 hours later, my results were emailed to me and I was taken to a screen showing a body categorized into different body systems. Some said “no adverse results” while others read “an informative result.” This was interesting information that they thought I should know, but nothing alarming. For example, it showed me that the uterine lining was thick, but that was normal for someone who was premenstrual. I saw “two insignificant findings” under my digestive system and my fear immediately took hold. When I opened it I almost laughed because just as I suspected, my liver was marked as one of the non-significant findings. It didn’t show me an image (some of the results show you your scanned images), but it did give me a message that “there is evidence of mild fat deposition in your liver,” which of course is a finding that can be associated with excessive drinking . What now? I thought. Prenuvo doesn’t connect you with medical professionals to address any findings, but after each scan you have a 15-minute consultation with a nurse who will (somewhat) walk you through your results. After my call I felt reassured because I was told that my chart was pretty good and that the liver findings were extremely mild and reversible. Bagum Gulshad, a nurse for Birch Medical (a Prenuvo partner agency), walked me through the informative findings: “Light is a good term,” Gulshad said, referring to my liver results. She also explained to me what could lead to these findings, such as alcohol consumption, but assured me that there were no signs of lesions or tumors. After that, if I wanted more information or additional testing on any findings, I was on my own. After the appointment, I received no referrals to doctors or specialists.
Probably not. People with numerous findings will find in their Prenuvo account on the website that a follow-up appointment for another examination is scheduled just six months after the examination. I was scheduled for another year after my first scan, which is a good sign, although I don’t think I would do it for another year as it didn’t give me any information that I didn’t already know.
For a full body scan, the price is $2,499. Like most high-priced wellness tools, it is an investment that is often unfavorable for low-income communities where the likelihood of illness is high due to environmental conditions. For a 45-minute head-torso scan the price is $1,700 and for a 20-minute torso scan the price is $999. While the other two options are still extremely expensive, they certainly don’t come close to the price of a full body scan. If Prenuvo suggests returning in a few months due to abnormal findings, the price will remain the same. Additional testing is not covered. Another reminder that health care in the United States is outrageously expensive, especially when it is “preventive.”