Screening programs are used for the early detec- tion of disease to decrease mortality and to increase quality of life. This subject is important in both clinical practice and public health, since screening involves a substantial part of the population. As people are already ill when a disease is detected, it is used for secondary prevention. Early detection means detecting a disease at an earlier (presympto- matic) stage than would usually occur in standard care, as patients have no clinical complaints and therefore no reason to seek medical care. A neces- sary condition for screening tests is the availability of intervention for the detected illness and a better effectiveness of the intervention when provided early. This entry describes important criteria to assess the pros and cons of screening programs as the basis for informed medical decision making for patients, care providers, and public health experts and policymakers. This entry illustrates these crite- ria using the practical context of cancer screening, which is similar to screening in the case of other diseases.
Keywords: Bias in Scientific Studies, Cost-Benefit Analyses, Costs, Direct Versus Indirect, Diagnostic Tests, Informed Decision Making, Quality of Well-Being Scale, Randomized Clinical Trials, Risk Communication
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