Aims of screening

In practice, screening is not only to detect disease at its earliest stage, but also to find individuals at risk or those with established disease who are not receiving adequate care. There are three levels at which screening can be applied in general practice:

1. 'well' individuals with risk factors that predispose to disease, e.g. obesity, uncomplicated essential hypertension, hyperlipidaemia

2. asymptomatic individuals with signs of early disease or illness, e.g. developmental dysplasia of the hip, ectopic testis, glaucoma, bacteriuria of pregnancy, carcinoma in situ of cervix

3. symptomatic individuals whose irreversible abnormalities are unreported but the effects can be controlled or assisted, e.g. visual defects, deafness, mental handicap.

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