Health Screening An Overview

Health screening is the process of testing for and identifying serious medical problems in their earliest stages, before they cause any symptoms.

Many serious health issues, such as heart disease and stroke, don’t cause any symptoms until they’re in their most advanced stages. In these cases, health screening can identify risk and allow patients take preventative measures before it’s too late.

The Benefits of Health Screening

The benefits of health screening are obvious—a health screening test may reveal a disease or condition in its earliest stages, when it’s easiest to treat. These results may mean that patients can avoid unpleasant or painful consequences, employers don’t lose employees to sick days that could have been prevented and medical insurers are spared the expense of treating a disease that’s progressed.

Health screening tests can also alert patients who haven’t yet developed a health problem of potential risks, inspiring them to take preventative action. It can give researchers an idea of trends in public health and help focus prevention efforts.

Health Screening Recommendations

Because our bodies’ needs change over time, different tests are recommended for men, women and children at different stages of their lives.

While health screening tests aren’t enforced or regulated by the U.S. government, the National Institutes of Health recommend different health screening tests at different stages of life. Since there’s no universal agreement regarding the type or timing of medical screening, ask your physician about whether certain health screening tests are right for you.

Health Screening for Children

Medical screening can help parents track their children’s development, and provide support and care as needed. Although individual circumstances may warrant more tests, typical health screening for a child includes recording the child’s height and weight and measuring their blood pressure, hearing and vision. Doctors may also screen children for:

  • Anemia
  • Cholesterol
  • Lead exposure
  • Tuberculosis.

Medical Screening for Men

Basic health screening for men includes testing blood pressure and cholesterol levels. A skin exam may also be included. Men over 40 are often screened for diabetes.

At age 50, the health screening test list expands to include screening for colorectal and prostate cancers.

Medical Screening for Women

Women’s base-line medical screening includes a:

  • Breast exam
  • Pap test
  • Pelvic exam
  • Skin exam.

At age 40, a typical woman’s health screening may expand to cover cholesterol levels and diabetes. Mammograms are typically preformed after age 40, as well.

At age 50, this health screening test list expands again, to include:

  • Bone mineral density (as older women are at increased risk of developing osteoporosis)
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Thyroid hormones.

Not all of these tests need be administered every year, however. Discuss all health screening questions with your physician, including questions about the frequency of screening for certain diseases.

Screening Based on Risk

If you have a history of disease in your family, or another risk factor—such as your weight—that puts you at increased probability for disease, health screening can help you stay healthy. Other health screening tests include those for:

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Arterial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat)
  • Carotid artery disease
  • Elevated C-reactive protein
  • Elevated liver enzymes
  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Osteoporosis
  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • Type 2 diabetes.

If you’re concerned about your risk of developing one of the above conditions, talk to your doctor about preventative health screening.

Resources

Faqs.org. (2010). Health screening. Retrieved October 11, 2010, from http://www.faqs.org/health/topics/72/Health-screening.html

MedicineNet.com (2010). Health screening for children. Retrieved October 26, 2010, from http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=10085

MedlinePlus. (2010). Health screening. Retrieved October 11, 2010, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/healthscreening.html

National Health Information Center. (2010). Get screened. Retrieved October 11, 2010, from http://www.healthfinder.gov/prevention/PrintTopic.aspx?topicID=20

Voiland, A. (2007). Health screening tests that everyone needs. Retrieved October 11, 2010, http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2007/09/24/health-screening-tests-that-everyone-needs.html