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Does Screening For Dementia Make Sense?

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Does Screening For Dementia Make Sense?

Does Screening For Dementia Make Sense?

February 12, 2014

Early detection of some diseases can make a huge difference in treatment and prognosis, but does that hold true across the board? We are regularly screened for certain cancers, even in the absence of symptoms, to catch malignant cells before the disease significantly spreads. However, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force  has determined this method may not be as effective in the context of Alzheimer care.

Machine that allows for dementia screening

A report published in Harvard Women's Health Watch confirmed that widespread screening for dementia or Alzheimer's Disease is not recommended, but people should seek out an evaluation if they notice symptoms. The major distinction is that cancers have more effective and definitive treatments, unlike dementia. Early detection of cancer implies the patient will undergo chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery to eliminate cancerous cells. At this point in modern medicine, there isn't a solid approach to treating dementia that would benefit from early detection.

Another issue with sweeping Alzheimer's screenings is the unreliability of current tests, according to HWHW. There is a test for familial early-onset that detects the autosomal dominant gene, which  determines the risk of developing early onset Alzheimer's, usually before middle age. However, only 5 percent of Alzheimer's Disease diagnoses fall under the autosomal dominant gene category. There is also a blood test that shows if a person is at risk. This test neither confirms nor denies if at person will develop the test, simply determines if it's possible. This can cause a lot of undue stress. Finally, steer clear of at-home cognitive decline tests. It can be difficult to decipher how much memory lapse is normal for your age and what symptoms are more serious implications for dementia. 

A specialist can help you sort out concerns about your loved one's cognitive health. Often he or she will be tested on reflexes, coordination, speech, eye movements, attention span, language skills and short-term information recall. According to Mayo Clinic, hearing and muscle tone and strength will be tested as well. Doctors will also attempt to rule out other causes of memory loss such as vitamin deficiency, sleep issues, depression or an under-active thyroid. After taking these steps, you can collaborate with the doctors and your family to determine if a memory care facility will be beneficial in the future. 

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