Early Disease Detection

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Early Disease Detection

Overview

What is early disease detection?

Early disease detection is the use of:

  • Screening tests to find health problems before symptoms appear.
  • Diagnostic tests, medical examinations, and self-examinations to find a disease or other health problem early in its course.

Why should I think about early disease detection?

Often, the earlier a disease is diagnosed, the more likely it is that it can be cured or successfully managed. Managing a disease, especially early in its course, may lower its impact on your life or prevent or delay serious complications.

What tests should I have?

The tests you might need depend on your age, gender, and risk factors. Risk factors might include family history, such as having a close relative with cancer, and lifestyle issues, such as smoking. Cholesterol screening, for example, is recommended for people who have a family history of early coronary artery disease.

Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant may be screened for genetic conditions, sexually transmitted infections, and other conditions.

Who develops recommendations for early disease detection?

Expert panels of health professionals develop recommendations and publish guidelines for all health professionals to use. For example, the Canadian Cardiovascular Society and the Canadian Working Group on Hypercholesterolemia and Other Dyslipidemias both have guidelines for cholesterol screening. The Canadian Paediatric Society has guidelines on early childhood screening for many different conditions.

Sometimes different panels make different recommendations. In these situations, talk with your doctor to decide which guidelines best meet your health needs.

When should I be tested?

If you are at risk for a disease, you and your doctor will decide whether you should be tested for it. Discuss the testing, the disease, the risks and benefits of the testing, and what action you are willing to take if you have the condition. For example, if your doctor believes you are at risk for osteoporosis, factors to consider before testing include your age, whether others in your family have had osteoporosis, whether you are a post-menopausal woman, and your willingness to take medications or make lifestyle changes if you test positive for this condition.

In some cases, testing is done as part of a routine checkup.

Screening, Birth to 12 Months

Your baby should have regularly scheduled checkups, often called well-baby visits, beginning shortly after birth. During these visits, your doctor examines your baby for possible problems and asks you questions about your baby's growth and development. Generally a baby is evaluated:

  • Right after birth.
  • At 1 or 2 weeks of age.
  • At 1 or 2 months of age.
  • At 4, 6, 9, and 12 months of age.

At each well-baby visit, your doctor or nurse will check your baby's:

  • Vision, if your health professional feels that it is necessary.
  • Length, weight, and head circumference.

All provinces and territories offer newborn screening, but the tests offered vary. The tests may include:

A hematocrit test may be done if your doctor is concerned about your baby's red blood cell count.

If your doctor is concerned that your child has been exposed to certain substances or diseases, tests may include:

Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) is a childhood condition caused by abnormal development of the hip joint. All newborns are examined for DDH at birth, and the growth and development of your child's hips should also be examined during regular well-child checkups until he or she begins walking normally. If the results of a physical examination are unclear, an imaging test such as an ultrasound or X-ray may be used to evaluate your child's hip joints. For more information, see the topic Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip.

For more information on the important markers (milestones) of infant growth and development, see the topics Growth and Development, Newborn and Growth and Development, Ages 1 to 12 Months.

Screening, 13 Months to 5 Years

Your child should have regularly scheduled checkups, often called well-child visits. During these visits, your doctor will check your child's growth and development and examine your child for possible problems. Generally, a child is evaluated:

  • At 18 and 24 months of age.
  • At 3, 4, and 5 years of age.

Normal checks include:

If risk factors are present, other tests may include:

Regular dental checkups are recommended for all children.

For more information on the milestones of early childhood growth and development, see the topics Growth and Development, Ages 12 to 24 Months and Growth and Development, Ages 2 to 5 Years.

Screening, 6 to 10 Years

Generally, your child is evaluated at ages 5 or 6, 8, and 10. At each visit, your child's doctor will check to see whether your child is growing and developing as expected. The goal is to find out early if your child has any problems that could affect his or her health and well-being.

Normal checks include:

  • School concerns such as grades, favourite subjects, and the teacher's idea of how your child is doing at school.
  • Behavioural concerns such as temper tantrums and aggressive behaviour that hurts others emotionally or physically (bullying).
  • Blood pressure screening. Your child should have his or her blood pressure checked annually.
  • Hearing.
  • Vision.
  • Height and weight.

Other tests may include:

Regular dental checkups are recommended for all children.

For more information on the milestones of early childhood growth and development, see the topic Growth and Development, Ages 6 to 10 Years.

Screening, 11 to 24 Years

Generally, your child or teen is evaluated yearly from age 11 through 18. At each visit, the doctor will check your child's growth and development and examine your child for possible problems.

Normal checks include:

  • School and behavioural concerns, such as failing classes or dropping out of school, relationship problems with friends and family that affect home or school life, severe mood swings, lack of interest in normal activities and withdrawal from others, being physically aggressive, becoming sexually active, and drinking alcohol or using tobacco or drugs.
  • Blood pressure. Your child or teen should have his or her blood pressure checked at a yearly medical checkup. After age 21, he or she should follow the adult blood pressure screening guidelines.
  • Hearing.
  • Height and weight.
  • Scoliosis.
  • Vision (children and teens).
  • Vision (adults)

Other tests may include:

Pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant may be screened for genetic conditions, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and other conditions. For more information, see the topic Pregnancy.

Dental checkups are recommended for all children, teens, and young adults once or twice a year.

For more information on the milestones of teen growth and development, see the topics Growth and Development, Ages 11 to 14 Years and Growth and Development, Ages 15 to 18 Years.

Screening, 25 to 49 Years

Early disease detection during adulthood is intended to identify diseases that may develop as you age. Regular checkups and screening are important to maintain good health.

How often you have the following tests depends on your age, health, and risk factors for specific diseases. Tests that may be done at your regular checkups include:

Monitor your weight, and see your doctor if you suddenly or consistently gain or lose weight. For more information, see the topics Healthy Weight and Obesity.

Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant may be screened for genetic conditions, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and other conditions. For more information, see the topic Pregnancy.

Dental checkups are recommended for all adults once or twice a year.

Screening, 50 to 64 Years

As you age, the risk of developing some diseases increases. Regular checkups and screening tests are important to maintain good health.

How often you have the following tests depends on your age, health, and risk factors for specific diseases. Tests that may be done at your regular checkups include:

Monitor your weight, and see your health professional if you suddenly or consistently gain or lose weight. For more information, see the topics Healthy Weight and Obesity.

Dental checkups are recommended for all adults once or twice a year.

Screening, 65 Years and Older

As you age, the risk of developing some diseases increases. Regular checkups and screening tests are important to maintain good health.

How often you have the following tests depends on your age, health, and risk factors for specific diseases. Tests that may be done at your regular checkups include:

Monitor your weight, and see your health professional if you suddenly or consistently gain or lose weight. For more information, see the topics Healthy Weight and Obesity.

Dental checkups are recommended for all adults once or twice a year.

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

Canadian Cardiovascular Society
222 Queen Street
Suite 1403
Ottawa, ON  K1P 5V9
Phone: 1-877-569-3407 toll-free
(613) 569-3407
Fax: (613) 569-6574
Web Address: www.ccs.ca
 

The Canadian Cardiovascular Society works to advance the cardiovascular health and care of Canadians through leadership, research, and advocacy.


Canadian Cancer Society
10 Alcorn Avenue
Suite 200
Toronto, ON  M4V 3B1
Phone: (416) 961-7223
Fax: (416) 961-4189
Email: ccs@cancer.ca
Web Address: http://cancer.ca
 

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is a national, community-based organization that provides information about cancer prevention, care, and treatment. The CCS also provides funding for cancer research.


Canadian Paediatric Society
2305 Saint Laurent Boulevard
Ottawa, ON  K1G 4J8
Phone: (613) 526-9397
Fax: (613) 526-3332
Email: info@cps.ca
Web Address: www.cps.ca
 

The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) promotes quality health care for Canadian children and establishes guidelines for paediatric care. The organization offers educational materials on a variety of topics, including information on immunizations, pregnancy, safety issues, and teen health.


Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)
130 Colonnade Road
A.L. 6501H
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0K9
Phone: Telephone numbers for PHAC vary by region. For your regional number, go to the listing on the PHAC website at www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/contac-eng.php.
Web Address: www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/index-eng.php
 

The Public Health Agency of Canada (formerly the Population and Public Health Branch of Health Canada) is primarily responsible for policies, programs, and systems relating to disease prevention, health promotion, disease surveillance, community action, and disease control.


References

Other Works Consulted

  • U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2003). Screening for Cervical Cancer: Recommendations and Rationale (AHRQ Publication No. 03–515A). Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Also available online: http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/3rduspstf/cervcan/cervcanrr2.htm.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Andrew Swan, MD, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Last Revised February 24, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.