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Table 1 Potential outcomes of screening tests with varying levels of sensitivity and specificity

From: Implications of the impact of prevalence on test thresholds and outcomes: lessons from tuberculosis

Test characteristic High sensitivity High specificity
Impact on results ↑ True positives ↑ True negatives
Testing goal Identify people with disease Identify people without disease
Treatment goal · Treat disease · Avoid unnecessary treatment
· Prevent future illness and, in the case of infection, possible disease spread  
Potential harms of opposite test characteristic Low sensitivity: Low specificity:
· ↑ False negatives · ↑ False positives
· ↑ Potential future illness and suffering · ↑ Bodily harms, toxicity, and financial costs of unnecessary treatment
· ↑ Potential future spread of disease (in the case of infection) · ↑ Social stigmatization
  · ↓ confidence in screening program