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A screening test is used to examine an individual for a disease or a health disorder. Most screening tests are done in an effort to catch a disease in its earliest stage, preferably before the onset of symptoms. Individuals with a history of certain diseases in the family may more frequently undergo certain screening tests to determine if there are any early signs that the disease may develop. Some common types of a screening tests include a mammogram, pap test, electrocardiogram, and a prostate examination. Other common tests are a colonoscopy, eye examination, and imaging tests, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Preventive screening is commonly done in hopes of preventing a disease from occurring. An individual with preexisting signs of a disease may undergo a screening test in order to be advised on how to keep the disease at bay. For example, undergoing blood glucose tests can be a source of medical screening for an individual who does not have diabetes, but who is showing signs that the disease may develop. A physician may be able to advise the patient on things to do to keep the risk of developing diabetes low.
Mammograms are an important health screening for women, especially in families in which breast cancer has affected many members. This diagnostic examination can show abnormalities in the breast tissue. The Papanicolaou test, commonly referred to as a pap smear, is a screening test used to detect abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix, including precancerous cells.
An electrocardiogram (EKG) is a screening test given to examine the electrical activity of the heart. If a doctor is looking to confirm or rule out a particular heart condition, this is commonly one of the first cardiovascular tests given. The test may also be part of a wellness screening examination.
A prostate exam is another common test to screen men for abnormalities in the prostate. This screening will commonly include a physical examination of the prostate and a blood test. Prostate cancer often causes few symptoms in its early stages, so a screening test can help to catch any abnormalities early.
A colonoscopy is a common medical screening used to detect cancer of the colon. Abnormalities of the large intestine, also known as the colon, can be detected and biopsies obtained with this type of test. Individuals with family histories of colon cancer may undergo a colonoscopy more frequently than an individual without familial history.
When a doctor suspects a disease or disorder, a computed tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be given to screen for abnormalities or diseases in the body. These tests can provide detailed images of bones, organs, muscles, and tissues thorough highly technical computer images. Though more commonly used for diagnosis, these tests may be useful for screening in cases where there is a high risk of certain diseases.
It can be very beneficial for a patient to see the doctor for a screening test with the first indication that a problem may be present. Many conditions can be caught early and many others can be prevented entirely by undergoing screening tests. A healthcare professional should be consulted about the most appropriate test to screen for individual health issues or concerns.