Weigh-up your medical test options

Whether to have a test at all, and the choice of test for you, will depend on your individual situation. This includes your personal and family medical history, the reason for the test and its potential risks and benefits, as well as your preferences. Remember that medical tests may not give definite answers about your health condition.

A test is usually just one part of the picture — your doctor may need other pieces of information to diagnose and treat your condition.

Same test — different recommendations

Breast cancer screening example

Regular mammogram screening is recommended for older women (50–69 years of age), but not for young women (below 40 years). Breast cancer is uncommon in younger women, and the test is less reliable with younger breast tissue. So there could be more false alarms (false positives) as a result of testing — where changes found on a mammogram lead to further tests, but do not turn out to be cancer.

Different testing recommendations apply to women of any age who have symptoms or are at high risk (for example, because of their family history). Every woman, including those aged 40–49, should talk to their doctor about their individual needs.

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