Would You Really Want To Know?

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Dr. Dave Hnida By Dr. Dave Hnida
CBSDenver.com Blogger
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Recent Blog Entries From Dr. Dave Hnida


Millions of Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s. If you don’t know someone affected by it today, odds are you will know someone tomorrow.

It is one of the fastest growing diseases in the United States. And this destructive brain illness can be oh-so-devastating, robbing people of a lifetime of memories … and turning the faces of loved ones into those of strangers.

That’s why news of a possible breakthrough in the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is so exciting.

Researchers in England say they have a developed blood test that can identify with 87 percent accuracy who will most likely develop Alzheimer’s within a one year period.

They studies more than 1,000 people, and were able to isolate 10 proteins that are usually present in the blood of people before they develop advanced or full blown symptoms.

Those doing the study say the research is important since most of the drugs that are used today don’t work very well as well as we would like, mainly because they are typically given after a patient has advanced disease and the brain has been irreversibly harmed.

Makes sense: identify those at risk, and work on developing new medications that will work to preserve brain function before it is destroyed.

But with good news, comes some questions that we all must answer, especially since we don’t have those brain- preserving drugs yet – meaning we may have a test before a treatment.

First, 87 percent is a good rate. That’s almost nine out of 10. But what about the one out of 10 who has the inaccurate test? They and their families are being told that a memory robbing brain disease is just around the corner. There’s a lot of worry and stress that goes with that, especially if it’s all a big mistake.

Second, what about the concept of learning you are going to develop a disease that’s currently untreatable? Would you want to know? Would you get the test—even if you knew there is no treatment or cure?

A tough set of questions, but ones we will be asked to answer more frequently as science outpaces our ability to have perfect answers.

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