screening test

A screening test is a test for a particular disease given to patients who have no symptoms (that is, are "asymptomatic"). Screening tests are generally cheap; they are designed to be sensitive (detect lots of possible cases of the disease) but not as specific (accurately identify actual cases of disease). Additionally, the disease or diseases being screened for are uncommon in the general population of patients who receive the screening test.

The goal of this type of test is therefore to identify all individuals who might have the disease. A wide net is cast to catch all suspects. Those patients so identified must then be subjected to further tests which are highly specific, that is accurately identify real disease.

The decision to use a screening test on a given group of patients is made on the basis of cost/benefit analysis. If the cost of testing all the individuals suspected is outweighed by the benefit of early detection to the few patients who have the disease, then a screening test is used. However, this means that there must be a treatment or some sort of amelioration possible to offer the identified patients, or else screening would have no point.

All of your children have received at least one screening test - the PKU test given by law in all 50 states.

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