This summer a 40-year-old friend and brilliant software engineer, Brandon Wirtz, died due to colon cancer and my dad died of pancreatic cancer too. At first neither of their doctors diagnosed properly (Brandon was frequently getting sick and my dad kept having more and more problems). Ever since Brandon discovered his cancer, I’ve started taking healthcare more seriously, wondering if there’s a way to diagnose such diseases earlier.
Last week a new clinic, Prenuvo, opened near San Francisco, that promises to do just that by doing a full-body MRI scan (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). This is like a high-resolution X-ray machine except it doesn’t use radiation to make its images.
I was lucky enough to be one of the first to be scanned in its new location (it has been doing such scans for a decade up in Vancouver, Canada) by founder, Dr Raj Attariwala. Here I filmed the consultation with Dr. Raj right after my scans were done.
The process? You pay $2,500. You spend an hour inside an MRI machine. For me, it was a chance to hold perfectly still for an hour, while I listened to the machine whir and buzz around me. After the hour, it takes a few minutes to process your images and then you sit down with a doctor, like I did here.
Luckily for me I got a pretty clean bill of health but you can see this is a powerful diagnostic tool to help doctors find dozens of problems before they become untreatable. Everything from heart disease to a variety of cancers. You can see how Dr. Raj walks through my entire body, including my brain, looking for problems that I’ll need to work on. He did find one with me, my mom had a bad back, and it looks like I’ve been blessed with the same problems, and he told me to do exercises to strengthen my core muscles to minimize that problem in the future.
In talking with cofounder/CEO Andrew Lacy the company has developed its own MRI machine to do these scans. He told me that most other MRIs are used only for specific body parts, usually after a cancer or problem has already been found. Prenuvo, he told me, has modified the software running the MRI machine to do specialized full-body scans that other machines can’t do easily. Also, his team is using these images to build machine learning to assist the doctors in helping find various problems and, also, in its plans to scale this to more people over time (the San Francisco location has two scanners that can do two people an hour, the company has plans to open more locations and do more scans per hour, but that will need more AI work, and a training of doctors to look for problems when they are early, rather late-stage like they usually see).
For me it’s amazing to see inside your own body for the first time and the company gives its customers all scans on a mobile app that you can explore on your own time later. It also sends the scans to your primary-care physician, or to other doctors for second opinions.
You can learn more about this service at https://www.prenuvo.com.