Alzheimer’s is the second-most feared disease after cancer and many people say they would seek testing for themselves or a loved one even if they did not have symptoms, U.S. and European researchers say in a report presented to the recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Paris.
Alzheimer’s now affects more than 35 million people worldwide, and research indicates the disease starts developing at least 10 years before the symptoms appear. This makes early testing extremely important.
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and Alzheimer Europe conducted a telephone survey of 2,678 adults aged 18 and older in the USA, Germany, France, Spain and Poland. The study was funded by Bayer AG, which is working on an imaging test for early signs of Alzheimer’s.
When asked to identify the most feared disease (from a list of seven including cancer, stroke and heart disease), almost 25% said they fear Alzheimer’s the most. 85% said they’d see a doctor if they were experiencing confusion and memory loss, and 94% said they’d want early testing of family members.
The study also revealed considerable ignorance about the disease. Many thought there were already effective treatments that can slow it down, and almost 50% said they believed there was a reliable medical test to confirm whether people suffering from confusion or memory loss were in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. (Wrong on both counts – current drugs treat symptoms, but no drug has yet been shown to delay the advance of the disease. And so far, there are no reliable medical tests at the early stages.)
Signficantly, even healthy people with no symptoms are very interested in being tested. About 66% said they’d get tested to see if they were at risk for developing the disease.