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Scientists use the following criteria when considering the utility of a screening test:
The ideal test is both sensitive and specific. If someone tests positive, they likely have the disease. If they test negative they likely don’t.
False positives are undesirable because they can lead to unnecessary and possibly invasive followup tests or surgeries. False negatives are a problem becasue they miss cancers.
It is difficult to develop a test that is highly sensitive and highly specific. Usually one quality is compromised at the expense of another.