Early Disease Detection
What is early disease detection?
Early disease detection is the use of:
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.
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.
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 checkup.
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