10 Key Health Care Diagnostic Tests and What They’re Used to Screen For

When a person visits a doctor, they might find tests are needed to determine the cause of problems they are experiencing. Countless tests might be used based on the symptoms the person is experiencing. However, some tests remain very common today. The following are the ones that a doctor might recommend.


One of the best health care diagnostic tests for suspicious lumps is a biopsy. During this procedure, the doctor removes one or more tissue samples from the body to examine them. They use this test to determine whether a patient has cancer, bone marrow issues, or other health issues.


Doctors request a colonoscopy when they suspect a patient has problems with their large intestine or rectum. They insert a flexible tube with a tiny camera in the tip into the rectum to view changes in the intestine or rectum. If they see suspicious areas, a biopsy can be taken for further testing.


An electrocardiogram provides information about electrical activity in the heart. This test may be done in a doctor’s office, hospital, or other healthcare facility. Some wearable devices today also measure this electrical activity, so a patient or their medical team can detect heart problems early.


Much like an electrocardiogram measures electrical activity in the heart, an electroencephalogram measures electrical activity in the brain. Doctors use this test to screen for neurological disorders. In addition to reviewing normal brain activity, doctors look for any unusual bursts of energy or responses to stimuli.


A gastroscopy, also known as an endoscopy, is used to check gut health. The doctor inserts a thin flexible telescope into the esophagus and guides it down to the stomach and small intestine. As with a colonoscopy, the doctor can see the inside of the stomach and small intestine. If they see any suspicious areas, they can immediately take a biopsy to have the tissue tested.

mri-radiologyMRI Scan

A doctor might order an MRI if they need additional information after a patient undergoes a CT scan. The CT scan shows detailed images of the body, but it is unable to provide information about abnormal tissues. An MRI is needed for this information.

Pet Scan

A PET scan is used to check metabolic activity in the human body. When abnormal activity is seen, it might be the person has cancer, heart disease, or a brain disorder. Doctors often use this test along with others to learn more about a patient’s condition and how to treat it.


An ultrasound is a test that allows doctors to see internal structures in the body. Many pregnant women undergo ultrasounds as part of their normal prenatal care. However, an ultrasound has many other uses. For example, it might be used to find abnormalities in the kidneys or to measure the size of the thyroid.


An X-ray is a static image of structures within the human body. During this procedure, a technician might take separate images of one or more parts of the body. Each image stands alone and may be used for diagnostic purposes.

CT Scan

A CT scan takes X-rays to the next level. During this test, a machine captures multiple images using X-ray technology. These images are then combined to give doctors a clearer view of what is going on in the patient’s body.

Always follow the advice of the medical team when it recommends testing. Doctors know which tests to order based on what they are seeing and hearing from the patient. With the help of these tests, they can determine the issue and begin developing a treatment plan.


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Last Updated on April 2, 2024 by Marie Benz MD FAAD