What are health screenings and why are they important?

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April 26, 2016 by Rachael L. Bridges, FNP-C

Health screenings are medical tests that look for diseases before you have symptoms. These tests are different from diagnostic tests which are usually looking for certain symptoms. Screening tests are done for people who do not feel ill. They aim to detect diseases at an early state -- before any symptoms are noticeable. Therefore, this has the advantage of being able to treat the disease much earlier. However, treating a disease at an early stage only makes sense if it leads to a better health outcome than treating it at a later stage.

Medical tests used for screening purposes are often not suitable for making a final diagnosis. Instead, many tests are used to detect abnormalities first, which are then looked at more closely in other tests. For example, stool tests are done for bowel cancer screening. The tests look for hidden blood in one’s stool, which could be a sign of bowel cancer. If the test results are abnormal, the bowel is examined more closely with an endoscope. This is the only way to figure out if traces of blood are caused by bowel cancer or by a non-cancerous condition such as hemorrhoids or inflammation of the bowel lining.

Other examples of screening tests include: mammograms, pap smears, cholesterol checks, blood pressure checks, depression exams, diabetes tests, osteoporosis tests, and prostate cancer screening. Talk to your physician about which screening tests are appropriate for you.
Rachael L. Bridges, FNP-C
Springhill Physician Practices
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