Americans want to know about their own future disease

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A new survey indicates that most Americans would like to know if they will contract a disease, even if there currently is no known cure. The survey, conducted by Directive Analytics for Siemens Medical Solutions, found that almost three-quarters (72 percent) of consumers would take a test that identifies diseases 20 years before symptoms appear. More than one-third (35 percent) said that they would want to know now if they would be diagnosed sometime in their lifetime with an incurable disease. Specifically, nearly half of those surveyed indicated they would want to know if they would be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, despite the current lack of a cure.

The survey, a national online poll of more than 1,000 adults, was conducted to assess consumer attitudes toward growing scientific capabilities to predict diseases and disease onset--part of the growing field of so-called personalized medicine.

"The objective of science is to open new doors, but the question is always 'do we really want a peek inside the room?'" said Donald Rucker, MD, vice president and chief medical officer, Siemens Medical Solutions. "In the case of predicting disease, people clearly are willing to live with the emotional burden of knowing about impending disease, and are willing to invest all that they have in pursuing a cure."

More than half (52 percent) of the respondents would "aggressively pursue treatment at any cost" if they found out their future held an incurable disease. Women were more likely than men (59 percent versus 45 percent) to educate themselves about treatment options and seek treatment at any cost if they were told they would eventually be diagnosed with an incurable disease. Although the survey found that people are interested in future knowledge of disease, their existing knowledge of the tools and tests available to identify disease is lacking. Only 53 percent of respondents could accurately identify a PET-CT.