Most United Kingdom survey respondents would want to know that they have Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms appear. And 75% reported that they’d be willing to be tested, according to a new study.
Investigators queried more than 2,000 adults to gauge public attitudes toward early detection and diagnosis. Most respondents said that they would be willing to undergo cognitive tests, brain imaging, and blood and eye exams to help identify their risk of developing the disease.
The respondents made it clear that they would want the tests to provide certainty about disease progression, reported dementia charity Alzheimer’s Research UK, which commissioned the survey along with Merck & Co. Nearly one third said they would want to know two years before developing symptoms, and 38% said they’d want to know 15 years beforehand.
Public understanding of dementia has historically been poor, despite increasing awareness of the condition, wrote Jonathan Schott, M.D., the charity’s chief medical officer, in a December report on the findings. In fact, only 49% of respondents were aware that Alzheimer’s disease starts years before symptoms show.
Despite recognizing the benefits of early diagnosis, participants were uncomfortable talking about Alzheimer’s, the researchers noted. “Fear and helplessness typically associated with developing dementia has meant that many people would prefer not to engage with the topic,” Schott explained.
At a time when many clinicians and researchers are focusing their attention on early diagnosis, the survey is a step toward engaging the public in conversations about dementia detection, Schott added.
“Making the decision to undergo treatment at this stage will require wider conversations about risk and our understanding,” he concluded.