Reality star Kim Kardashian recently praised the wellness trend of undertaking whole-body magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) screening — saying these screenings save lives.
Many medical experts, however, share a larger context from their point of view and even some caveats when it comes to the health care benefits overall.
“I recently did this @prenuvo scan and had to tell you all about this life-saving machine,” the 42-year-old media personality recently wrote on Instagram.
“The Prenuvo full-body scan has the ability to detect cancer and diseases such as aneurysms in its earliest stages, before symptoms arise,” Kardashian also wrote.
“It has really saved some of my friends’ lives and I just wanted to share, #NotAnAd,” Kardashian wrote.
As a patient lies in a tube-shaped MRI machine, its powerful magnetic field and radio waves create computer-generated cross-sectional images of the inside of the body, similar to slices in a loaf of bread, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The health conscious who can afford the expensive full body MRI scan find peace of mind knowing the most information available about the inside of their body, according to many accounts, especially since cancer is one of leading causes of death in the United States.
Regarding cost, Prenuvo, for its part, charges $ 999 to scan the chest, belly and pelvis; $ 1,799 to scan the head with the chest, belly and pelvis; and $ 2,499 for whole body scans, according to its website. The company says these scans can detect solid tumors, malignant cancers, potentially treatable brain aneurysms, spinal degeneration, previous strokes and musculoskeletal conditions.
Some experts, however, believe that more information is not always better.
Patients are advised to check with their health providers for insights or advice, depending on their own medical history. Charges vary depending on provider.
A recent 2019 comprehensive review of 12 studies on whole-body MRI scans on people without any symptoms concluded that these scans lead to unnecessary testing because of the high rate of “false positive” results.
A “false positive” suggests cancer, but then upon further workup comes back as non-cancerous.
“There is no scientific evidence that whole-body MRI screening is a beneficial and cost-effective method for screening healthy people,” Dr. Thomas Kwee, lead author of the study, told Fox Digital News.
“There is a substantial risk of false-positives, which may have several negative downstream effects, including subjecting healthy people to additional unnecessary (invasive) tests or even treatment, and increasing healthcare costs,” added Kwee, radiologist at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands, per an email.
All screening tests, including those clinically indicated, have some inherent risk of “incidentalomas of indeterminate clinical significance” and “false positives,” Dr. Yosef Chodakiewitz, radiologist at Prenuvo based in Silicon Valley, told Fox News Digital.
Clinicians can balance these risks, so “in most cases, so-called ‘findings of indeterminate clinical significance’ can still be appropriately risk-stratified according to radiological-features, comparisons to prior imaging-studies, and clinical context/history,” the doctor added in an email.
“In cases of diagnostically nonspecific but currently low-risk findings, such findings typically do not need any active investigation or additional testing, but rather can be reassessed as part of the next general screening [whole-body MRI] checkup,” he also said.
The American College of Radiology (ACR) notes there is no evidence that total body screening is either cost-effective or prolongs life, according to a statement.
The organization’s statement added that this screening may add a significant medical expense that’s not needed.
Some are advocating for the pendulum to swing for less screening, not more.
Current evidence, for example, suggests the benefits of prostate cancer screening with a simple blood test known as a prostate specific antigen test, or PSA, often don’t outweigh the risks for most men.
Since many factors can affect the PSA level, the current recommendation is for patients to have shared decision-making with their provider to see if getting screened is right for them.
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) currently only recommend routine screening for a small number of cancers, namely breast and cervical cancer in women and colon cancer in both sexes — as well lung cancer for those who are high risk.
Only 14% of cancers diagnosed in the U.S. are first detected by a screening test, according to a recent report by the nonprofit research organization NORC at the University of Chicago.
More people want to take charge of their health and not simply rely on the current screening guidelines for which many cancers are excluded.
“In our decade-long history in this uniquely specialized [whole-body MRI] screening practice, we have been able to find many early-stage cancers in patients that would not have been able to be detected by any other standardly available screening methodologies,” Chodakiewitz told Fox News Digital.
“Our view on the utility of cancer screening with [whole body MRI] is that it enables a highly efficient general evaluation that can look for cancer ‘everywhere and at everything under the skin’ to serve as the next best way to screen for cancer whenever a gold standard method does not yet exist or is not accessible,” Chodakiewitz added.
“That’s still the case for most cancers.”
“It’s important for people to get the screenings they need to live longer and healthier lives,” Dr. Michael Barry, chair of the U.S. Services Preventive Task Force, told Fox News Digital in an email.
“We encourage people to focus on preventive services that are proven to keep people healthy,” he also said.