Skip to Content
Home > Wellness > Health Library > Health Screening: Finding Health Problems Early
Often, the earlier a disease is diagnosed, the
more likely it is that it can be cured or successfully managed. When you treat a disease early, you may be able to prevent or delay problems from the disease. Treating the disease early may also make the disease easier to live with.
Your doctor may suggest:
You and your doctor can use recommendations made by expert panels of health professionals to help you decide what screening tests you need. These panels develop screening recommendations based on:
Sometimes different expert panels make different recommendations. In these situations, talk with your doctor to decide which guidelines best meet your health needs.
See which screening tests you may need:
When and how often you get screening tests may depend on your age, your gender, your health status, your risk factors, and the cost of testing. Your doctor may suggest screening tests based on expert guidelines. In some cases, testing is done as part of a routine
When you are thinking about getting a screening test, talk with your doctor. Find out about the disease, what the test is like, how the test may help you or hurt you, and how much the test costs. You may also want to ask what further testing and follow-up will be needed if a screening test result shows a possible problem.
Ask your doctor about the limits of the test and treatment. For example:
Also think about what you would do if a test shows that you have the disease. For example, if you are going to be tested for osteoporosis, are you willing to take medicine or make lifestyle changes if the test shows that you have it?
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Learning about screening for health problems:
Common screening tests:
What do I need to know about screening for:
All states require newborn screening, although the tests
required vary from state to state. These tests can help find serious problems that could affect your baby's long-term health. They may include:
It's important for your baby to have
regularly scheduled checkups, often called
well-baby visits, starting shortly after birth. During
these visits, the doctor examines your baby for possible problems and asks you
questions about your baby's growth and development.
At each well-baby
visit, the doctor or nurse will check your baby's:
It's also recommended that your baby have developmental delay screening and a blood test for iron-deficiency anemia.
If the doctor is concerned that your child has been exposed to certain substances or diseases, tests may include:
For more information on important markers (milestones) of
infant growth and development, see:
It's important for your child to continue to
have regularly scheduled checkups, often called
well-child visits. During these visits, your child's
doctor will check your child's growth and development and examine your child
for possible problems.
Checks at well-child visits include:
dental checkups are recommended for all
children once or twice a year.
Until your child is age 24 months, the doctor will measure the circumference of your child's head.
Until your child is age 5, the doctor will check for developmental problems, including two checks
autism. When your child is ages 10 through to 12, the doctor will check for scoliosis.
Other tests may
For more information on the milestones of early
childhood growth and development, see:
It's important for your teen to continue to have regularly scheduled checkups. At each
well-child visit, the doctor will check your teen's
growth and development and examine him or her for possible problems.
Dental checkups are
recommended for all teens once or twice a
Other tests may include:
For more information on the milestones of teen growth and
Screening in adults is intended to identify diseases that may develop as you age. To help stay as healthy as possible, get routine checkups and have screenings that you and your doctor decide on.
How often women have the following tests depends on age, health, and things that make a specific disease more likely.
Tests that may be done include:
Women who are pregnant or trying
to become pregnant may be screened for
gestational diabetes, sexually transmitted infections, and other conditions.
For more information, see the topic
Some tests are only done at certain ages.
It can be hard to decide whether you want to be screened for certain diseases or which type of test is best used. Combine medical information with your personal values to make a wise health decision.
Sometimes doctors automatically schedule routine tests because they think that's what patients expect. But sometimes research shows that testing may not be useful or worth the risks or costs. For more information, see Heart Tests: When Do You Need Them?
Screening in adults is intended to identify diseases that may develop as you age.
To help stay as healthy as possible, get routine checkups and have screenings that you and your doctor decide on.
How often men have the following tests depends on age, health, and
things that make getting a specific disease more likely.
Tests that may be done include:
It can be hard to decide whether you want to be screened for certain diseases or which type of test is best used.
Smith BD, et al. (2012). Recommendations for the identification of chronic hepatitis C virus infection among persons born during 1945–1965. MMWR, 61(RR-4): 1–32. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr6104a1.htm.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2013). Screening for Hepatitis C Virus Infection in Adults: Recommendation Statement. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspshepc.htm.
Other Works Consulted
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (2012). Guide to Clinical Preventive Services, 2012: Recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (AHRQ Publication No. 12-05154). Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Also available online: http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/clinicians-providers/guidelines-recommendations/guide.
American Academy of Pediatrics (2008). Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents, 3rd ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American
Academy of Pediatrics.
American Academy of Pediatrics (2013). Ethical and policy issues in genetic testing and screening of children. Pediatrics, 131(3): 620–622.
Harrington S (2010). Screening. In CL Edelman, CL Mandle, eds., Health Promotion Throughout the Life Span, 7th ed., pp. 221–241. St. Louis, MO: Mosby.
Martin GJ (2012). Screening and prevention of disease. In DL Longo et al., eds., Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th ed., vol. 1, pp. 29–33. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Tarini BA (2007). The current revolution in newborn
screening. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 161(8): 767–772.
Current as of:
March 12, 2014
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
To learn more, visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.