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Alzheimer’s disease screening coming to a corner near you?

Alzheimer’s disease is progressive and incurable, but doctors say there is still value in having the disease diagnosed as early as possible. Drugs can be taken to treat some of the symptoms of the disease, they say. And just knowing that you have the disease can help with planning for the future.

PET scans that show the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease by detecting a protein in the brain called beta-amyloid will reach the marketplace within a year, researchers reported Monday at the annual meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine. While scientists work out the best way to conduct screening for the disease, consumers will need to decide if they want to have a brain scan.

“For individuals who have already developed a measurable memory decline, a positive scan for amyloid is the most accurate predictor of progression to Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Christopher Rowe, the lead investigator of the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle study, said in a news release. “Amyloid imaging with PET scans is expected to be widely available soon for clinical practice. It will be an important new tool in the assessment of cognitive decline.”

In one study presented Monday at the meeting, researchers found that amyloid plaques build up very slowly in the brain -- about 2% to 3% growth per year. This plaque is common in old age. About 12% of people in their 60s have plaques compared with 30% of people in their 70s and 55% of those 80 and older.

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Another study presented at the meeting found that the imaging agents F-18 Florbetaben and F-18 Florbetapir can be used to reliably predict disease progression.

Related: Alzheimer’s disease not always linked to memory loss symptoms, study finds

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