Would you take the Parkinson's Disease Blood Test?
The Daily Mail published an article today about the discovery that people with Parkinson's Disease have increased levels of a protein called phosphorylated alpha-synuclein (PAS), in their blood.
This discovery could potentially lead to the development of a blood test to predict whether or not a person is likely to get Parkinson's, even before they have any symptoms. (Presumably it could also be of great benefit to people who are having Parkinson's like symptoms, but cannot get a firm diagnosis due to the current difficulty of obtaining one).
In time, this important breakthrough may also lead to improved drugs being developed to help curtail this disease. Perhaps people will even be able to be treated before the disease affects them at all!
Of course at this stage this is all speculation and wishful thinking. It takes time for any scientific discoveries to translate into anything tangible. But it would be wonderful if scientists could find a cure, or at least some new drugs that work better. There is presently no cure to this unrelenting disease, and after a while the drugs often seem to stop working. A person's quality of life is drastically affected, and it can adversely affect every aspect of their life. So any step closer to a cure is an important one.
The article produced an interesting debate on their website, with some people saying they would definitely not like to know in advance whether they were likely to get Parkinson's, (or indeed any other debilitating disease), especially given that there is no cure.
While others were just as adamant that they would like to know, so that they could make the appropriate life changes, and ensure that they enjoyed life while they still could.
I can see both sides of this debate, but for me the decision as to whether or not I'd take the test is a simple one.
For several generations, the female members in my family line have all developed Parkinson's Disease. And while most doctors will tell you that it is not hereditary, I am increasingly reading that it's common for someone with Parkinson's to have other family members with the disease.
This doesn't necessarily mean that Parkinson's is genetic, as it could be caused by other common factors; for example some environmental factor common to all of the affected family members. Or it might simply be that the genetic link has not yet been uncovered.
Of course, it's not definite that I will get Parkinson's. Even if there is some genetic link, perhaps I didn't inherit the particular gene that's affected. Or perhaps I haven't been exposed to the same environmental factor as my older female relatives. Who knows for sure?
And so I like to assume that I'm not going to get it. To assume that I will would be to live my life in fear. And there is enough to worry about in life without worrying about something that might not happen. I like not knowing, as this allows me to get on with my life. So it is for this reason that I would not want to take the Parkinson's test. (Should it become a reality).
Finding out that I will definitely get Parkinson's would no doubt depress me. Even though the disease does not always progress quickly and many people live a perfectly normal life for a long time, I am the kind of person who imagines the worst-case scenario! I am a worrywart, so I would be living under the shadow of what my life could become. (And this might also actually bring my symptoms on earlier as stress makes it all the worse).
On the other hand, if I could find out for sure that I was not destined to get it, it would be a huge relief. I would be overjoyed that I could live my life without suffering from this horrible disease, and my quality of life would no doubt be better.
But in order to get this good news, I would of course have to take the test, and risk learning bad news instead. And for me this risk would be too great. For me the stress of getting a bad result would exceed the joy that I'd get from learning that I will not get Parkinson's. So no test for me.
I can see though, how some people might want to take such a test. I can see the benefits of preparing oneself for the future; making arrangements with regards to things like work, money, accommodation and family.
And when you know that you may have a limited amount of years when you'll be healthy and fit, you are more likely to do all of the things that you want to do, and you'll do them sooner rather than later.
Of course this is what we should all do; make the most of our time, as nobody truly knows what tomorrow holds! And conversely, even if you are diagnosed with Parkinson's, the rate of progression is different for everyone. So your life might not change much at all, and you'll have lots of time to do the things that you want to do.
So there are still many uncertainties, irrespective of the result you might get.
And of course, some people might be optimistic that a cure for Parkinson's is just around the corner, in which case it would make perfect sense for them to take the test.
As I mentioned, I'm more of a pessimist by nature. So I wouldn't take it unless I was certain that a cure had actually been found. Naturally, that would change my view completely! Knowing that if the news was bad I could simply get a shot of Parkinson's cure, and never develop the disease, then I would be the first in line to find out my prospects! But while there is no cure - and as yet no cure on the horizon - I don't see the advantage of knowing.
What would you do?