Recently, focus on early detection, diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's disease (AD) has been increasing. The rationale is that, as with any other serious illness, early intervention will lead to better outcomes for patients and families. Despite the intuitive appeal of this rationale, there is discussion and even debate regarding the issues surrounding early detection and treatment. This review begins with a futuristic case that is aimed at focusing this discussion/debate and then proceeds to consider each of the issues including: should AD screening be part of routine physical examinations? is the amyloid hypothesis correct?: implications for diagnosis and treatment? can neuroimaging studies be used to detect brain amyloid? can symptomatic medications be combined to facilitate cognition? can cognitive rehabilitation programs facilitate cognition? and can immunotherapy and other plaque-busting therapies modify the progression of AD?