The paramount catch-phrase, ‘prevention is better than cure’ needs some second thought overhauling, especially with respect to screening tests done to detect possibility and presence of disease in its earliest stages.
The mainstay of prevention against diseases is to identify the risk factors associated with them and their early termination. One of the chief purposes of screening tests is to identify risk factors for certain diseases.However it has been observed on a regular basis that when screening of a large population is done with an aim of identifying related risk factors with a particular disease, the results lack some clarity and are largely inconclusive.
A screening test is done on a person who is not ill but is at a risk of catching a certain disease. So, on detecting the presence of an early disease,there is an advantage of treating it early.This sounds full of logic and reason and it is true to some extent, but not in an absolute sense.Treating a disease in its earliest stages does make sense only if it leads to a better outcome than treating it late.
Many diseases show good results of screening and their early treatment, but not all.Diabetes,hypertension,anemia and hypothyroidism etc. can be combated in early stages by virtue of intelligent and timely screening tests whereas many types of cancer even detected early on screening couldn’t help in enhancing human longevity.
Many times, a preventive treatment started after detection of a significant risk factor (like detection of a cervical polyp developing into cervical cancer) was not really needed as the person involved might have not developed the grave outcome as expected.Such an approach in turn, overburdens the person with over-treatment besides labeling him with a disease which he may never suffer from.
Moreover, the procedures of some screening tests are harmful to certain extent. X-ray scans expose the body to radiation and endoscopy can cause unwelcome bleeding.Even their specificity and sensitivity are questioned besides the prevailing dilemma over their false positive and false negative results.
So there is definitely a flip side of screening-tests.But there is a way out of this mess.
The WHO has defined the criteria for evaluating screening tests.It says that screening should be done for diseases with serious consequences only .The screening tests should be reliable.There should be an effective treatment available for the diseases screened.And above all, neutral information should always be available to people, to enable them decide for themselves if they are willing to undergo a test or not.
Tracemydoctor practices high standards in screening its cherished clients by following strictly the WHO guidelines.Its prime aim is to educate people regarding duality of screening. The benefits and disadvantages are explained to them in detail which helps them in final decision making regarding the choice of a screening test.
by Blue Lotus , at Tracemydoctor