Certain groups are targeted for screening or testing to further understand the risk factors, development, and progression of a disease. This may include persons with a family history of a disease; persons with occupational exposure to a disease-causing substance; pregnant women; and workers responsible for the lives of others (i.e., pilots, bus drivers).
A screening test is done to detect potential health disorders or diseases in people who do not have any symptoms of disease. The goal is early detection and lifestyle changes or surveillance, to reduce the risk of disease, or to detect it early enough to treat it most effectively. Screening tests are not considered diagnostic, but are used to identify a subset of the population who should have additional testing to determine the presence or absence of disease.
What makes a screening test valuable is its ability to detect potential problems, while minimizing unclear, ambiguous, or confusing results. While screening tests are not 100 percent accurate in all cases, it is more valuable to have the screening tests at the appropriate times, as recommended by your doctor, than to not have them at all.
Be sure to consult your doctor regarding the appropriate timing and frequency of all screening tests based on your age, overall health, and medical history. The following are some examples of common screening tests:
Cholesterol and other fats are transported in the bloodstream in the form of spherical particles, called lipoproteins. The two most commonly known lipoproteins are low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol, and high-density lipoproteins (HDL), or "good" cholesterol.
Cholesterol screening is performed by a blood test. People with high cholesterol measurements from a blood sample tend to have a higher risk for some types of heart disease, i.e., coronary artery disease, than those with cholesterol in the normal range. Studies have shown that people with high cholesterol can reduce their risk for heart disease by lowering their cholesterol. It is important to understand, however, that people can still have heart disease even with cholesterol levels in the normal range.
Consult your doctor regarding other types of screening tests, based on your medical condition, as not all health care providers are in agreement in regard to which screening tests should be done and for which age groups.
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