1.0 DEFINITION, OBJECTIVES, ORGANIZATION, and BENEFITS
Screening, a type of secondary prevention, is identification of unrecognized disease by
the application of tests, examinations or other procedures which can be applied easily.
Screening can be described as routine or episodic/adhoc, individual or mass, selective
The effectiveness of screening is assessed by changes in morbidity, mortality, survival,
and quality of life.
The objectives of screening are achieved through early detection and treatment of disease.
The benefits of screening may be public (infectious disease), private (insurance screening),
and individual (early treatment and reassurance).
The disadvantages of screening are longer morbidity for untreatable screen-detected cases, over-treatment of borderline cases, false reassurance of false negatives, unnecessary treatment
of false positives, risks and costs of the screening tests.
The most successful screening programs are breast and cervical
cancer. Breast cancer screening is by mammography screening every 1-2 years is recommended
in women above 50 years. There is no proof that BSE and mammography are useful in women below 50 years of age. Mammography
for women below 50 years is done only if there is a family history of breast cancer.
Cervical cancer screening is by use of the
PAP smear test is very popular and is recommended for women above 20 years every 3 years.
2.0 CHARACTERISTICS OF DISEASE & SCREENING TESTS
A disease suitable for screening must be definable clearly, with known natural history and a relatively long detectable pre-clinical phase, common (high
prevalence), serious, and effectively treatable if detected early.
The screening test must be simple, cheap and cost-effective, acceptable, safe, and perform
optimally (high sensitivity, high specificity, low false positive, and reliability).
3.0 EPIDEMIOLOGIC EVALUATION OF SCREENING PROGRAMS
Process parameters of screening program effectiveness are accuracy, validity, reliability,
and predictive value.
The outcome parameters of a screening program are health outcomes (reduction of morbidity,
reduction of mortality, survival, and improvement in the quality of life) or economic outcomes.
Outcome assessment can be by pre and post screening comparisons of the same population
or comparison of morbidity and /or mortality in the screened and non-screened using the case control or random allocation
Screening programs can be improved by selective screening (by age, gender, and high risk),
optimal screening frequency, multi-phase screening, and sequential screening.
4.0 COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS OF SCREENING PROGRAMS
Cost benefit analysis is used to decide on program initiation or continuation. The costs
include cost of screening, the cost diagnosis and treatment, patient costs such as lost earnings, human emotional and other
5.0 ETHICAL ISSUES
considerations in screening programs are: the benefit of screening must outweigh the harm, the efficacy of screening must
be proved in a proper trial, confidentiality must be maintained, and informed consent must be obtained.