Dr. Bikash Shrestha,
Consultant,MDGP,wellness and family medicine dept. Grande International Hospital.
Health Screening is a method of identifying apparently healthy people who may have an increased risk of a particular disease. It is important to everyone. The goal of health screening is to help people live longer, healthier lives. It involves medical history and physical examinations, lab tests and radiological investigations. Early detection, followed by treatment and good control of the condition can result in better outcomes, and lowers the risk of serious complications. It is therefore important to get yourself screened even if you feel perfectly healthy.
Health Screening tests are different from Diagnostic tests. Diagnostic tests are usually done to find out what is causing certain symptoms, but screening tests aim to detect diseases at an early stage, before any symptoms become noticeable.
Why is Health screening important in Nepal?
We are aware of the fact that being a developing country prevalence of the communicable disease is high in our country but many of us are unaware of the reality that incidence of noncommunicable diseases like heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, breast cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer, depression, dementia, substance abuse are increasing simultaneously. The most common causes of these diseases are change in our food habits, smoking, alcohol, stress and change in life style. Most of us are unaware of this fact. The reason might be our ignorance or our lack of health education. So, following preventive medicine like health screening on regular interval can help people to be conscious about their health status. Nowadays people are becoming more conscious about health that they visit hospitals voluntarily to do health screening check up.
When to start Health Screening:
Health Screening starts from womb of mother. Many of us have heard that we do ultrasound of pregnant mothers to look for fetal wellbeing. This is the form of health screening. Health screening has no fixed rule that the set of investigations should be done. The need of health screening depends on the sex, age, family history of diseases, personal and social life style of the person. During childhood commonly done screening are test for speech and language, hearing, visual acuity and strabismus, dental caries, and congenital heart disease.
During Adolescence screening are commonly for substance abuse, depression, obesity, STI if risk factor present. Likewise in adults screening is done for diseases like Heart disease, Diabetes, Cancers, Depression, Dementia etc.
Misconceptions of Health Screening:
Many people have misconception about health screening, like:
Health Screening is not the one time business, rather it should be done of regular interval. One time screening will only pick up health conditions that are present at that time. Regular screening helps to detect conditions that may develop after the previous screening. It is not the WHOLE BODY check up, as many people think. Rather, it screens the common diseases those are preventable and curable at early stages that can have long term adverse effects on one’s health and quality of life.
There are many forms of Health Screening out of which lab tests and x-rays are few of them. Screening questionnaires examinations are used to screen diseases and health problems like depression, alcohol and smoking dependence, obesity, physical and sexual abuses especially in children and elderly. Health Screening has no fixed rules. The method and type of health screening is different for people of different ages.
Health screening can reduce the risk of developing a condition or the complication from particular health condition but it cannot offer a guarantee of protection. It can be of huge advantage when there is early detection of disease followed by effective management resulting into better outcome like a longer life, less illness and suffering, and less cost. Like for colon cancer and cervical cancer, early detection makes all the difference. But as the coin has two faces, there are some disadvantages of health screening as well. There is very small risk of complications during certain procedures, like colonoscopy. More often the harms associated with screening come once the results are in, in the form of stress from false positives or ambiguous results, further costlier and invasive testing and, sometimes, unnecessary treatments. So, health screening should be done after assessing the advantages and disadvantages of screening as well as the balance of benefits and harmful effects. For this, you should take help of your general practitioner rather than deciding yourself. They can help you choose the appropriate health screening tools.
Here are some questions you can ask if you are thinking about having a screening test: