It may look like a tunnel for an MRI, but at Life Guard Imaging on Rocky Point, you slide through the Philips Brilliance CT Scanner, which scans your body from your shoulders to the base of your torso. (Photos by Charmaine George) 

Beating cancer or heart disease can be an uphill battle.

However, Frankie Maldonado says he can help give you a fighting chance.

The solution, he says — don’t wait until the hill is too large to climb.

At Life Guard Imaging, where Maldonado is the director of operations, you can get out in front of deadly cancers and other diseases by having a body scan that can identify potential problems with your heart, as well as identify early stages of many different cancers that may be lurking.

The upscale facility, located on Rocky Point Dr. in Tampa, specializes in preventive screening in order to find heart disease or cancer early enough that patients and their physicians can take steps to correct it. Otherwise, most find out the hard and sudden way — with a heart attack that can be deadly or with symptoms that may not present themselves until late-stage cancer.

“United States healthcare is set up to be reactionary,” says Maldonado, who opened Life Guard Imaging in August. “We are taught from the time we are (little) to tell me when you have a symptom, and we’ll treat the symptom. That’s bad enough when it’s a cold, the flu or a virus. But, when it’s heart disease or cancer? That’s deadly.”

At Life Guard Imaging, you are scanned from your shoulders to the base of your pelvis. A registered CT Technologist slides you through a low-radiation, high-resolution CT scanner, creating 3D images of your internal organs, which are then examined by a team of Board-certified Doctors of Radiology who can help aid in detecting deadly diseases before it’s too late.

The scans can help detect hundreds of issues, but among the most prominent are lung cancer (which kills more men and women than any other cancer), liver disease (which accounts for 2 million deaths per year) and abnormalities in your chest, abdomen or pelvis. The scans also can serve as a virtual colonoscopy that Life Guard Imaging says is more thorough (and less invasive) than a traditional colonoscopy, although most doctors still recommend traditional colonoscopies, even with the scan.

Author’s note: I received a scan — super easy by the way, it only takes five minutes — and while happy it detected no cancer, it did confirm other issues I’ll need to take care of as well as providing a coronary calcium score (almost identical to the one I received from my cardiologist).

Maldonado says your first scan serves as your base, and yearly scans can reveal any dangerous changes (although you’re welcome to come in for just one scan if you choose).

Life Guard Imaging is one of only five places nationwide that offer this type of program, where you can receive a full body scan every year.

“One scan is invaluable,” Maldonado says, “but multiple scans are the ones capturing things (as they change).”

Why does a yearly scan make sense? Maldonado says it is an effective way to detect new diseases.

“It’s just like having a mammogram scan every year,” he says. “The single-most diagnosed cancer in America is breast cancer. And yet, and most people don’t know this, the single most-survived cancer in American is breast cancer. That’s not a coincidence — it’s because of early detection scans, before symptoms appear, before any lump gets massive. It’s about catching it early.”

Frank Maldonado (Director of Operations) and Amy Maldonado (Administrative Director)

Maldonado has spent most of his career in the travel industry, but when a friend introduced him to a job opening at a facility in Atlanta that used the same body scanning technology, he was eager to make the jump.

A Personal Connection

For Maldonado, it also was personal.

His father, Dr. Benjamin J. Maldonado, Jr., was a prominent surgeon in Maryland. In January 1998, he felt there was something wrong in his stomach. He was scanned, but the technology then had gaps in the scans. In one of those gaps, on the backside tail of his pancreas, cancer had settled in. 

“They missed it,” Maldonado says, and 10 months later his father was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Just six weeks and a few days after that, he passed away.

“It devastated me,” Maldonado says. “He was my hero.”

Dr. Maldonado’s portrait hangs in the lobby of Life Guard Imaging, a daily reminder to his son that early detection can save lives, as well a world of sadness for those left behind.

While Frankie Maldonado has no medical training himself — he graduated from the University of Maryland in College Park with a degree in television broadcasting — the chance to help save lives and honor his dad’s memory made taking the job at the independent imaging facility in Atlanta in 2017 an easy choice.

“It was the biggest no-brainer of my life, he says. “I said, ‘I want to be a part of this.’ What we were doing in Atlanta literally had to do with how my father lost his life.”

In fact, Maldonado says that, in 2018, one of the patients scanned at the facility was discovered to have early-stage pancreatic cancer, the same cancer that killed his father, but she was able to be saved. In Atlanta, he says he saw thousands of lives that were saved, and he decided to start Life Guard Imaging and bring it to Tampa. He plans to open 1-3 new facilities in Florida and around the country every single year.

“I thought that more people need to know about this,” he says. He is spreading the word through advertising, an appearance on the BloomTV show on WFLA, and we met him at Life Guard Imaging’s booth at a health fair at the Tampa Premium Outlets.

Since Life Guard Imaging opened in August, more than 330 scans have been conducted. Maldonado tells the story of one man who came in with his wife and mother-in-law, who were worried about heart disease in their family. They wanted scans; he did not. However, Maldonado talked him into getting one, and while the ladies each scored a perfect zero on their coronary calcium scan, which measures how much calcified plaque may be in your heart’s arteries, the gentleman’s number was alarmingly high and he was able to get to the doctor to have it checked in time.

Another man, Maldonado says, came in with his wife and his test revealed a calcium score of  900 (anything over 300 is considered high). 

The next day, he saw a cardiologist, and discovered that three of his four main arteries had 90-percent blockage. Two weeks ago, he had triple bypass surgery.

“He told us we saved his life,” Maldonado says. 

While health insurance doesn’t cover the cost of a scan — which can be pricey if you receive just one but are much cheaper if you choose to receive them yearly — Maldonado hopes to get that changed. He has collected enough data that shows how many lives have been potentially saved and is ready to fight in the hopes that he can change the health narrative and mindset from reactionary to preventive.

“Healthcare is probably never going to switch over but we are going to try,” he says. “This works. It’s an awesome thing, and I’m proud of it.”

Life Guard Imaging is located at 3001 N. Rocky Point Dr., Suite 185. For more info, visit or call (813) 524-1010. If you mention this story or the ad, you will receive a free heart scan and coronary calcium score.

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