Alzheimer’s Blood Test: Too Much Information, or Helpful Healthcare Tool?
March 11, 2014
March 11, 2014
A simple blood test to determine whether a patient is destined to develop Alzheimer’s may be coming to a hospital near you. Although the test is in its preliminary stages, researchers are working to find a way to screen for the degenerative disease that is much more efficient and cost effective than modern day methods such as PET scans and spinal taps.
In a study published in Nature Medicine, a group of scientists first drew blood from hundreds of healthy seniors over the age of 70 living in New York and California. When their blood was drawn five years later, 28% of the sample had developed Alzheimer’s, or were beginning to experience some early symptoms of the disease. Scientists examined 100 fats, or lipids, in each patient’s blood, and found that a low level of 10 particular lipids was consistent with 54 people who had already developed Alzheimer’s. The scientists claim that this blood test can predict Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment with 90% accuracy.
If the Alzheimer’s blood test is approved for physician use, hospitals that offer the screening will have to decide how to advertise and market such a life altering test. Their PR teams must be able to promote the test, while simultaneously calming fears. Patients should be assured that if they test positive, they will be offered resources to help them cope and prepare for the disease.
Similarly, the BRCA genetic testing website seems to have mastered their own PR strategy. Not only do they include a wealth of information on the process and results of the BRCA test, but they offer, “Is testing right for me?” quizzes, and other articles that explain how to prepare mentally for every possible outcome. The website promotes the test by educating women on the importance of knowing your risks, but does admit that this isn’t the right course of action for everyone. Women who visit the website feel empowered that they can change the course of their health, but that there are risks associated with ignoring some of the red flags that are associated with breast cancer, such as family history.
The ability to test for Alzheimer’s surfaces as a vital medical breakthrough, though many may be wary because there are not yet preventative measures for the disease.