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What's it like: To get a memory screening

Everyone forgets things. Most people at one time in their lives have forgotten their keys or that they're out of milk. But there are some problems with memory function that might prompt the need for a medical evaluation.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: January 20, 2013

Your doctor might order an imaging test, such as an MRI or a PET scan. Your doctor might also order various lab tests. These tests could give your doctor more insight. For example, if an MRI shows that you have severe atrophy in your frontal lobe, you might be suffering from frontotemporal dementia, a rare and permanent form of dementia.

Your doctor might run a Mini-Mental State Examination, a series of questions and tests that will analyze your mental abilities, attention and language skills. It might take a few visits before your doctor gives you a conclusive diagnosis.

Does it hurt?

It shouldn't. There are generally no needles used unless your blood is drawn, and there's not a surgical arm of memory tests. A memory test is primarily focused on your mental capacity, unless your doctor suspects your memory loss is connected with an imbalance or deficiency in your body.

What are the risk factors?

As with any screening, you could get what's known as a false positive, a result that says you have something that you don't. A false positive can cause a person a lot of anxiety until they find out their diagnosis is false. Also, some people are against some screenings because they can cost money, and people sometimes don't give the results to their primary care doctors.

What's the follow-up?

The amount of times you go back will depend on what your doctor finds — or doesn't find, during your initial visit. You might not leave with a diagnosis the first time. It's important to be honest with your doctor and ask questions about any of your concerns. Memory loss can be a scary thing to face, but it's important to follow the advice of your doctor.

Source: Dr. Matthew Ryan, a neurologist with Norman Regional Health System; The Mayo Clinic; The Alzheimer's Society; The Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation; National Institutes of Health; Medline Plus.

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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