What Are Screening Tests & Why They Are Important?

Some of the diseases can be prevented with healthy lifestyle modifications while on the other hand, some diseases cannot be prevented, but their overall impact can be reduced by detecting them at their early stage. Nowadays, wellness visits and comprehensive exams play a significant role in maintaining your health. Screening tests play an important role in the comprehensive examination and it is the best way to find the disease early. Let us take a look at screening test, its importance in detecting the disease early and some common health screening tests:

What is a screening test?

A screening test is used to detect potential diseases or health disorders in those people who don’t have any symptom of the disease. The main goal of screening tests is the early detection of the disease in order to reduce the possible risk and to treat the disease most effectively. Screening tests are not considered as diagnostic tests because the individuals should have additional examination and testing to determine the presence or absence of the disease. These tests are an important part of preventive health care. Health screening includes laboratory tests, physical tests, medical tests and radiology exams. Screening tests can be done by doctors, nurses or community health workers.

Why screening tests are important?

Screening tests are important because it the best way to find the medical conditions or diseases at an early stage when their treatment is feasible, easy and less expensive. American Cancer Society states that screening can find or even prevent about half of the new cancer cases. Secondly, screening tests reveal the risk factor which is a health condition or a behaviour that puts us at risk of developing the disease. If we know our risk factors then we can make certain lifestyle changes that ultimately prevent the disease or disorder that they may lead to. For example, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity are the risk factors that may lead to certain diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases or cancer. Moreover, the results of the screening tests provide a track record of your medical information which can be helpful for the doctor.

What are common screening tests?

Following are some common screening tests:

  • Cholesterol measurements:

Cholesterol is a wax like substance that is found in all parts of the body and it helps in the production of some hormones, cell membranes and vitamin D. Cholesterol in the blood comes from two sources, the foods we eat and its production in the liver. Cholesterol and other fats are transported in the blood in the form of spherical particles, which are called as lipoproteins. The two most common lipoproteins are low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or “bad cholesterol” and high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or “good cholesterol”.

Blood test is used to perform the cholesterol screening and those people who have high cholesterol measurement have high risk of developing cardiovascular disease than those who have normal measurement. The risk of heart disease can be reduced by lowering the cholesterol level which can be achieved through healthy lifestyle changes.

  • Fecal occult blood test:

This test involves the detection of haemoglobin (blood) in the stool by microscopic analysis or chemical tests. The test requires three blood samples that are examined under the microscope for blood. If blood is present in the stool sample then it can be an indication of cancerous growth in colon and rectum or the presence of blood is also due to some non-cancerous factors, such as certain foods or medications, haemorrhoids or gastrointestinal bleeding. According to American Cancer Society and other organizations, this test is recommended at the start of 50 years of age.

  • Colonoscopy:

Colonoscopy is the procedure that is used to study and assess the diseases or problems of large intestine (colon). This test helps to identify the hidden problems in the colon which mainly include colon cancer or colon polyps. United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and other organizations recommend Colonoscopy at an age of 50, if you have high risk factors of developing colon cancer or colon polyps.

  • Diabetes:

According to American Diabetes Association (ADA), all adults should get themselves screened for diabetes starting at 45 years of age regardless of their weight. Moreover, individuals without any symptom of diabetes should be screened if they are obese or overweight or if they have one or more risk factors of developing the condition.

  • Pap test (Pap smears):

Pap smears are the samples of cells that are taken from the cervix in women and it is used to look for cellular changes which can be the indication of cervical cancer. Pap test is an important screening test recommended for the women under 65 years of age. It helps to detect the cancer at the stage where it often shows no symptoms.

  • Mammography:

This test is used to detect early breast cancer in those women who have no symptoms of the disease. Sometimes, mammography is done in the combination with clinical breast exam. According to USPSTF, women after the age of 50 should get mammography screening every 1-2 years.

  • Prostate specific antigen (PSA) test:

It is the blood test that measures the levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. The PSA levels can be elevated in the presence of prostate cancer. However, there are also some other conditions in which PSA levels also high and these are benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH (non-cancerous enlargement of prostate gland) or prostatitis (inflammation of prostate). Different professional organizations and doctors vary in their suggestions as who should and who shouldn’t get a PSA screening. So, it is important for you to discuss the pros and cons, limitations and possible risks of PSA test with the doctor in order to make an informed decision.

Want to get a screening test?

If you want to get a screening test or a complete wellness visit then you can consult specialists at Island Medical Consultants in NYC, who are board certified physicians and offer complete physical exams and devise appropriate frequency and timing of all the screening tests according to the age, overall health and medical history of every individual. They provide a complete medical care with convenience and personal attention. You can schedule a wellness visit with our highly accomplished physicians by calling or filling a contact form.