No benefit to community-wide dementia screening: review

July 17, 2013 by Mary Brophy Marcus, Healthday Reporter
No benefit to community-wide dementia screening: review
But worrisome symptoms could merit a visit to the doctor, experts say.

(HealthDay)—There's no proof that community-wide screening for dementia results in any emotional, clinical or economic benefits, new research indicates.

"We found no evidence that population screening would lead to better clinical or psychosocial outcomes, no evidence furthering our understanding of the risks it entails and no indication of its added value compared to current practice," said study author Carol Brayne, a professor of public health medicine from Cambridge Institute of Public Health, in the United Kingdom. She and her colleagues were to present their findings Wednesday at the annual Alzheimer's Association International Conference, in Boston.

For years, there has been wide debate among health advocacy groups and policymakers over whether or not community-wide screening for dementia helps patients and saves dollars. Because there is no cure for Alzheimer's, many argue against the need for it, but as many as 50 percent of people with dementia go undiagnosed, the authors said.

Given the debate, Brayne said she was surprised by "the extent of the lack of evidence that supports it [community-wide screening]."

For the study, she and colleagues reviewed all of the available studies on the issue. "We wanted to try to find all the relevant studies and then assess how well they addressed the specific question we were asking about screening in populations," said Brayne.

"Out of all of them, there were only six presenting some information about cost and ; we found none with regards to clinical and psychosocial outcomes, such as cognitive, , social and planning benefits of population screening," Brayne said.

The team added that significant resources are required to screen for , and there is no indication that it adds value compared to current .

Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University Medical Center and the author of The Alzheimer's Action Plan, said, "I think this study is empowering information in some sense. The general policy is we don't want to do screening unless two criteria are met: the screening test has to have a high degree of accuracy; and two, the results of the screening end up with some kind of an intervention that improves the outcome for a person."

For the vast number of screening tests, the value is overstressed, said Doraiswamy. "We're starting to learn as a country the massive harm people suffer as a result of promoting screening tests—from raising anxiety of patients to doing unnecessary procedures that result in incidental findings," he added.

The study results don't suggest ignoring troubling symptoms, though.

Family and friends worried about a loved one should check in with their doctor, said Dr. Heather Snyder, director of medical and scientific operations at the Alzheimer's Association. People who have a parent or sibling with Alzheimer's are at a higher risk, too, she said.

"If you are concerned about yourself or your loved one's ability to remember things, know the warnings signs of Alzheimer's, speak to your health care provider, or go to if you need help getting connected with a local physician," said Snyder.

She also pointed out that sometimes other health issues—such as hormone imbalances, multiple medication use and nutrition deficiencies—can cause memory problems, and they are treatable. "That's why it is important to speak to a health care provider if you have questions about memory changes," said Snyder.

Brayne said future research might focus on higher-risk groups. "A research program that tested systematic screening in populations that are known to be at higher risk could be part of a clearer strategy to generate the evidence we need to make informed decisions as a whole society," she noted.

Research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Explore further: IU and Regenstrief conducting nation's first randomized controlled dementia screening trial

More information: For more on Alzheimer's, go to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Related Stories

IU and Regenstrief conducting nation's first randomized controlled dementia screening trial

April 4, 2013
Researchers from the Indiana University Center for Aging Research and the Regenstrief Institute are conducting the nation's first randomized controlled dementia screening trial to weigh the benefits and risks of routine screening ...

Men say they want prostate cancer test, despite risks

July 9, 2013
A survey of men age 40 to 74 found that 54 percent said that they would still opt for a popular prostate cancer screening test despite recent recommendations that the test not be performed, finds a new study in American Journal ...

Telephone intervention ups colorectal cancer screening

July 16, 2013
(HealthDay)—A telephone outreach intervention delivered by Medicaid managed care organization (MMCO) staff can increase rates of colorectal cancer (CRC) screening among women overdue for screening, according to a study ...

Screening at-risk adolescents for celiac disease proves cost-effective

June 10, 2013
The current standard practice of screening adolescents who are either symptomatic or at high-risk for celiac disease proves to be more cost-effective than universal screening. Additionally, the strategy is successful in preventing ...

Glaucoma screening not for everyone, experts say

July 9, 2013
(HealthDay)—Not enough evidence exists to recommend that primary-care doctors screen for glaucoma in adults who do not have vision problems, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Screening decisions better informed when risk information personalized

February 27, 2013
Patients' ability to make genuinely informed choices about undergoing disease screening increases when the risk information that they receive is related to their own personal risk, rather than average risks, according to ...

Recommended for you

Lifestyle changes to stave off Alzheimer's? Hints, no proof

July 20, 2017
There are no proven ways to stave off Alzheimer's, but a new report raises the prospect that avoiding nine key risks starting in childhood just might delay or even prevent about a third of dementia cases around the world.

Blood test identifies key Alzheimer's marker

July 19, 2017
A new study led by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggests that measures of amyloid beta in the blood have the potential to help identify people with altered levels of amyloid in their ...

Steering an enzyme's 'scissors' shows potential for stopping Alzheimer's disease

July 19, 2017
The old real estate adage about "location, location, location" might also apply to the biochemical genesis of Alzheimer's disease, according to new research from the University of British Columbia.

Brain scans may change care for some people with memory loss

July 19, 2017
Does it really take an expensive brain scan to diagnose Alzheimer's? Not everybody needs one but new research suggests that for a surprising number of patients whose memory problems are hard to pin down, PET scans may lead ...

Can poor sleep boost odds for Alzheimer's?

July 18, 2017
(HealthDay)— Breathing problems during sleep may signal an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease, a trio of studies suggests.

Hearing is believing: Speech may be a clue to mental decline

July 17, 2017
Your speech may, um, help reveal if you're uh ... developing thinking problems. More pauses, filler words and other verbal changes might be an early sign of mental decline, which can lead to Alzheimer's disease, a study suggests.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.