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What are the Different Types of Medical Screening?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2016
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Frequently, medical screening applies to the administration of tests to people fitting a certain profile or possessing enhanced risk factors for a specific type of disease. These screenings may occur during routine doctor’s visits, or doctors may remind patients that it’s time to get tested for specific things. Tests may be advanced scans or they could be a series of questions, and they can look for a plethora of diseases, though each test may only focus on a specific area. Sometimes medical screening occurs outside of standard check-up purview and is instead done or offered by employers to make certain that those who work in areas with higher disease risk factors remain healthy.

Certain types of medical screening are done on specific age groups that have increased risk for a variety of illnesses. For instance, breast cancer screening, which may begin at midlife, involves mammograms to look for evidence of tumors. Depending on the agency recommending the screening, this might be done on a yearly basis. If a woman has additional risk factors for breast cancer, like its presence in close relatives or a family history of early breast cancer, the standard screening guidelines could be ignored and mammograms might begin sooner and be undertaken on a more regular basis. Note that both gender and age are taken into account, and genetics might be part of the decision on when to begin these screenings.

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Age and other factors can be part of medical screening for cardiovascular disease, and testing can take various forms depending on degree of identified risk. Usually, blood tests and blood pressure tests are early methods of screening for higher heart attack risk factors. Presence of high blood cholesterol, evidence of diabetes and other present conditions could suggest recommending more extensive screening such as echocardiograms, stress tests, or even an angiogram.

Throughout childhood, children will be screened for a variety of conditions. Vision tests and hearing tests are performed at specific times to look for evidence of severe vision problems. Many optometrists and ophthalmologists recommend slightly more accurate tests with an eye doctor each year. Girls are screened for scoliosis in their early teens, and boys are often checked for presence of hernias. Some of these screens may be part of exams at school, and don’t even take place in a doctor’s office.

Sexually active young women are likely to experience different types of medical screening when they receive gynecological care. They may be checked for presence of sexually transmitted diseases, have pap smears to look for evidence of cervical cancer, and receive counseling on disease prevention, birth control options and immunizations designed to prevent contracting the human papillomavirus (HPV) that may cause some forms of cervical cancer.

In work environments where hazardous materials are routinely used, all workers or those having direct contact with these materials may undergo medical screening on a regular basis to make certain no one is getting higher a than acceptable exposure. In a similar vein, some companies have such high-risk types of employment that they regularly screen employees for drug use to make certain no employee is abusing drugs. In the latter example, such employees would likely be fired if they positive, but in the former, an employee testing positive for hazardous substances might be referred to a doctor, reassigned to an area where certain materials aren’t used, or given medical support, as needed.

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