Common Medical Screening Tests for Adults

The field of medicine has a large number of screening tests for adults and children that are performed on the human body and they can be classified into two main groups.

The first is specialized tests which are used to identify specific illnesses or related category of illnesses and the second are general tests used to look for a wide range of illnesses. All these tests combined are designed to fulfill certain functions including screening, diagnosis, evaluation of responsiveness to treatment as well as trying to identify the progression of a disease so as to allow for effective care.

Medical screening tests may develop an additional benefit because a screening or diagnostic test may also be used to treat the very same disease it is meant to identify.  An example of this occurs when a colonoscopy is used to search for abnormal growth(polyps) in the intestines that could be used to treat the problem by physically cutting and removing the growth.

At other times one test can be used for two different reasons as is the case with the blood test used to identify anemia which is also used to identify whether the body`s red blood cells have returned to normal count.

Categories Of Medical Tests

Health experts recognize about five main types of medical screening tests but with the rapid evolution of science, it has become increasingly more difficult to properly distinguish the core characteristics of each type.

1) Imaging

These tests are used to see inside the human body by manipulating the electromagnetic spectrum and using detectors to create visual representations of tissue, bones, veins, and arteries. Tests that fall into this category include X-rays, angiography, PET scan, magnetic resonance imaging(MRI) and computed tomography(CT).

Imaging machine with patient

2) Examination Of Human Fluids

Fluids that are contained in and excreted by the human body hold a lot of useful medical knowledge if properly assessed. The blood test can reveal liver problems as well as infectious diseases, like HIV. The most common reason for urine screening tests is to check for pregnancy but they are also used to check for kidney disease, bacterial infection, protein and PH levels.

A simple urine test that any person can perform all on their own is to check the color of urine and if it is dark yellow or green then it is a sign of dehydration. Cerebrospinal fluids are the liquids that surround the brain and spinal cord and they can be analyzed to determine illnesses like multiple sclerosis(MS) and Alzheimer’s disease.

The extraction of cerebrospinal fluid is often done by what doctors call a spinal tap which is basically the injection of a thick needle into the spinal cord. Other fluids analyzed include saliva, sweat, and synovial fluid, which is the liquids found in joints to allow for motion without friction.

A biopsy is a test that involves the extraction of a piece of tissue from an organ so as to study it under a microscope. The word biopsy has almost become synonymous with cancer because it is a test designed to find abnormal cell growth. The most common areas of the body often biopsied include lungs, kidneys, liver, breasts and lymph nodes located in the armpits and neck.

3) Endoscopy

endoscopic procedure

This is a procedure that does not involve cutting into the human body because it relies on the use of an endoscope which is a long flexible tube that has a light and camera attached to it. An endoscopy can be performed through the nose to examine the voice box and lungs in procedures technically known as laryngoscopy and bronchoscopy respectively.

An endoscope could also be inserted into the anus or urethra to analyze the colon and kidneys in procedures called colonoscopy and cystoscopy.

endoscopy via mouth

4) Genetic analysis

If one were to think of the human body as a computer program and DNA is the code controlling that program then genetic engineering is how a scientist can alter the code to make the human body virtually invincible.  Nobody is expected to have `superpowers` just yet but with the completion of the ambitious human genome project, there is a lot of progress taking place in the field of genetics.

Fetuses can now be tested before they are born to determine if they are likely to develop a genetic disease in the future while adults are being tested to check their probability of developing diseases like cancer.

5) Examination of organ performance

Human organs are like machines in that their performance can be quantified to determine if they are executing their functions as expected. Tests such as EEG involve attaching electrodes to the head or directly to the brain as a way of measuring and analyzing electrical signals as they move through the brain.


Uncertainties And Outcomes Of Screening Tests

Nearly all screening tests performed have some dangers associated with them although the degree varies widely. Exposure to X-rays increases the probability of mutations such as cancer, while MRI machines have been known to injure people because they literally pull on any hidden metal that is in the human body.

The outcomes of medical tests are analyzed based on statistical ranges which means that tests will not always be 100% accurate because not everyone fits within the accepted average ranges.

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