The quality of a screening test is described in terms of:
The goals of any screening test are:
A perfect test would correctly identify everyone with no mistakes. There would be no:
No screening test has perfect (100 percent) sensitivity and perfect (100 percent) specificity. There's always a trade-off between the two.
A test that's very sensitive may pick up even the slightest abnormal finding. This means it will miss few cases of the disease, but it may also mistake some people as having the disease when they don't.
These false positive findings can lead to further testing and some anxious moments for people who don't have the disease.
A test that's very specific, on the other hand, may have few false positive results, but may miss more cases of the disease.
The balance between sensitivity and specificity is important for all screening tests, including mammography.
Learn more about the accuracy of mammography.
Facts for Life: Breast Cancer Screening and Follow-Up Tests
Facts for Life: Mammography
Questions to Ask Your Doctor: Screening Mammograms
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