New Test Can Diagnose Alzheimer’s: Would You Want to Know?

There is a new test that is going to be available this month for patients to determine whether or not you have Alzheimer’s disease. The big question is, since there is no cure for it, would you want to know? There is a lot of stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s, and for some people who receive a diagnosis, friends and family start to disappear, or start to treat them differently even though their symptoms are not yet problematic. However, since more and more money and effort is being poured into Alzheimer’s research, a diagnosis could lead a person into current medication or research trials. So, would you want to know?

New test can diagnose Alzheimer’s, but raises questions

(CBS News) More than 5 million older Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease and a new test can tell you ahead of time if you’re going to get it. Until now, the test has only been available in research settings, but beginning this month patients have been able to get the test commercially when ordered by their doctors.

But with no cure for the disease in sight, some are asking: Why would you want to know?

Eighty-year-old Alex Dreyfoos has always had an exceptionally sharp mind. A graduate of MIT and Harvard, he won an Oscar for his work in video technology. He was also a recreational pilot.

It was flying that he first noticed his memory was slipping.

“I had my own Citation jet. … I’d hear a control tower give me some instructions and I’d have to write it down where I’d never used to have to do that,” Dreyfoos said.

Dreyfoos’s mother had Alzheimer’s and he feared the same fate. So he underwent genetic testing and a battery of tests for memory and brain function. The results suggested he had the disease. But then doctors at Mount Sinai School of Medicine told him about a new test that would tell him for sure.

He suspected he had Alzheimer’s, he said, and “knew I was, as I say, not at the top of my game — I was clearly worse as time went on.”

Dreyfoos underwent a PET scan with a new radioactive dye that detects amyloid plaques in the brain, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s. Prior to this test, that could only be confirmed at autopsy.

Dr. Sam Gandy was part of a team that analyzed Dreyfoos’s PET scan. Gandy said that he, too, had assumed Dreyfoos had Alzheimer’s based on his story.

But why would patients want to know if they have a disease with no cure?

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