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How Important is Private Health Screening?

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How Important is Private Health Screening?


Some of us at some point in our lives may have received messages in our letterboxes, inviting us for a private health screening. Maybe few or most of us have not received such messages, but then again, is it worth looking forward to?

It is common knowledge that people will jump at the invitation of a private health screening that promises to offer some health screenings such as :

  • An ECG ( Electrocardiogram)
  • A body composition analysis
  • A 25 component blood analysis
  • Measurement of blood pressure
  • Peripheral arterial blood flow measurement

All for a fee of £129. To be honest, it seems like a perfect opportunity, but some people might not think so, like retired GP Rick Crooks. Having received the invitation as he was enjoying his morning cuppa with a newspaper, he decided to think it through and weigh the cons and pros. Rick was concerned, however, despite the series of tests the health screening claimed to cover, there wasn't any mention of a general physical examination by a professional or even a review of the medical history of the person to be screened.

After deliberation, he just wasn't convinced it was worth it. If a retired GP can disregard such invitation for reasons later known, what do we do then? Let us, however, try to understand what screening is all about.

What is screening?

According to the Oxford dictionary, screening is defined as the system of checking for the presence or the absence of a disease, ability or attribute. Medical screening, however, uses a series of criteria to identify the value of a procedure. These criteria have been reviewed and updated recently by the UK National Screening Committee, ever since its development in 1968.

Summarily, these principles are :

  • The condition being screened for should be important
  • A suitable test must exist
  • The test should be acceptable to those being screened
  • The condition should be properly understood
  • The health service should be prepared to handle any additional work that results from the screening
  • The benefits should outweigh the risks
  • The cost should match the benefits

Also, importantly (most ignored), the person screened should be viewed as an individual and his or her medical history reviewed.

Understanding the procedure

Knowing major information about an individual 's medical history is highly important. A physical examination will even clarify the interpretation. It allows test results to be more accurate.

Privatehealth screening does not usually include all these vital information, and as a result, the screened test result can be flawed. One must understand that private health screening can cause harm. It could be from unnecessary anxiety, over treatment or diagnosis. For instance, a simple blood pressure reading can reveal problems that might not be there, probably due to anxiety or poor relaxation on the part of the patient, or observation and equipment calibration error on the part of the person doing the reading.

Sometimes, you can even be treated for a dormant condition that wouldn't have harmed you in your lifetime. And there is, of course, the issue of cost.

Common screening test

Some of the most widely offered tests show how easily one can receive an inaccurate result without prior reference to the person's medical history. Some of them are :

  • Electrocardiograms (ECG) for general health checks
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  • PSA testing for prostate cancer
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  • CT/MRI scans
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  • Cholesterol tests
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  • Calcium tests for bone /muscle function and biochemistry
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Important screening tests

There are suggestions that private health screenings may not be the best way forward. There are 8 important and recommended health screenings, all available on NHS, that could save your life.

  • Cholesterol tests
  • General health checks
  • Bowel cancer screening
  • Cervical screening
  • Blood pressure tests
  • Skin checks
  • Breast screening
  • Vaccinations

Having reviewed what the procedure entails, one might wonder if the cost and the time spent is worth the effort. This is a two-way response. It can be yes or no.

Yes, in the sense that private health screening can offer some form of reassurance on the feeling of well being, provided it gives a clean result of health.

On the other hand, No, if it will only serve as a means of identifying abnormality or health conditions that may not be serious, or identify a problem that will require further examination and interpretation by a medical practitioner, or even overlooking a serious issue that can be fatal.

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