Umberto Veronesi’s dream of an early diagnosis of cancer free of side-effects has become a reality at the Istituto Europeo di Oncologia (IEO) in Milan, and at the Advanced Screening Centers (ASC) in Bergamo.

More than ten years ago, Umberto Veronesi dreamed of an early diagnosis technique that had no side-effects, was non-invasive, and could diagnose tumors early (i.e. when they can still be easily cured). His dream has come true and is called Diffusion Whole Body (DWB).

Diffusion Whole Body (DWB): what is it and where is it located in Italy?

DWB uses Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), which is able to detect the movement of water molecules. When these molecules are trapped in a hypercellular tissue (typically, within a tumor) they are “brilliant”. DWB doesn’t use radiation and doesn’t require the injection of contrast media. It’s therefore non-invasive and free of residual risks.

Umberto Veronesi’s dream is therefore now a reality and is available at the European Institute of Oncology (IEO) in Milan, at the Advanced Screening Centers (ASC) in Bergamo, but also in Collecchio (Parma).

What are the advantages of DWB?

The main advantage is the possibility of detecting cancerous lesions of only three-to-four millimeters across, and to be able to do so throughout the body. In fact, in cases of tumor diagnosis, normally only the organ in which the tumor was detected is investigated, and often it’s discovered that the tumor has metastasized too late. The DWB instead, doesn’t focus on a specific organ, but explores the whole body (hence the name “Whole Body”, while “Diffusion”, indicates the spread of the tumor).

Another important advantage is that the entire examination lasts about thirty minutes, and since it doesn’t use radiation, it can also be performed on pregnant women.

These advantages, in addition to those already listed a few lines above, make DWB a very important means of early diagnosis — that can also be used in the future on healthy individuals to prevent the development of tumors.

How much does the examination cost and how can it be accessed?

At the moment, the cost is about 1000 Euros at the ASC, but the intention is to allow access to the examination for the less well-off — and at a cost of only 200 Euros.

Access to the diagnosis can be obtained by contacting the IEO or the ASC directly, both being private centers.

Will the DWB replace the X-Ray or PET scan?

DWB doesn’t replace established screening techniques for the breast, colon, or uterus because it has less analytical capacity than, for example, mammography and is not effective on the colon — but is complementary for other body areas. Studies are underway, in order to deepen the knowledge of this technique, and more than thirty thousand (30,000) people will soon undergo DWB in Germany. These studies are very important because the technique is highly-dependent on the operator’s ability to interpret the data, so therefore it requires very experienced radiologists.

In conclusion, DWB is a very promising technique that’s already demonstrating its many benefits in the diagnosis of cancer, and soon will also lead to its prevention; furthermore, it represents an additional step toward precision medicine. However, care must be taken not to fall into the trap of the overdiagnosis of tumor conditions that could take a very slow course, and never become a disease during the patient’s long lifetime.

This post is also available in: Italiano

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