What is early disease detection?
Early disease detection is the use of:
- Screening tests to find health problems before
- Diagnostic tests, medical exams, and self-exams to
find a disease or other health problem early in its course.
Why should you think about early disease detection?
Often, the earlier a disease is diagnosed, the
more likely it is that it can be cured or successfully managed. Managing a
disease, especially early in its course, may lower its impact on your life or
prevent or delay serious complications.
Who develops recommendations for early disease detection?
Expert panels of health professionals develop screening recommendations and publish
them as guidelines for all health professionals to use. For example, the
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American
College of Physicians both have guidelines for cholesterol screening, and the
American Academy of Pediatrics has guidelines on early childhood screening for
many different conditions.
Sometimes different panels make
different recommendations. In these situations, talk with your doctor to decide
which guidelines best meet your health needs.
How do you know what tests to have?
The tests suggested for you depend on your age,
health, and gender. Often, they depend on your risk factors too. Risk factors might include
family history, such as having a close relative with
cancer, and lifestyle habits, such as smoking.
Cholesterol screening, for example, is recommended for
people who have a family history of early
coronary artery disease.
Women who are
pregnant or trying to become pregnant may be screened for
sexually transmitted infections, and other
conditions that may affect themselves or their baby.
When you are thinking about getting a screening test, talk with your doctor. Find out about the disease, what the test is like, the risks and benefits of the test, and the cost. Think about what action
you are willing to take if you have the condition. For example, if you are at risk for
osteoporosis and want to get tested, think about your willingness to take
medicine or make lifestyle changes if you test positive for this condition. When you get a test for cancer, you can ask your doctor how likely it is that the test would miss some cancers (false negative), show something that looks like a tumor when it?s not one (false positive), or find a cancer that will never cause a problem. Tests are important tools, but
they have limits.
To learn more about suggested tests, review the
medical test information(What is a PDF document?) form with your doctor.
When should you be tested?
When and how often you get screening tests may depend on your age, gender, family history, lifestyle, health status, and the cost of testing. Your doctor may suggest certain screening times based on expert guidelines. In some cases, testing is done as part of a routine