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Newborn screening for cystic fibrosis is a vital tool to help slow the progression of this fatal genetic disease. Newborn screening is the process of testing newborns for specific disorders. Shortly after a baby is born, a doctor or nurse takes a small blood sample from the heel of the baby’s foot. The sample is sent to a laboratory, where it is tested for a number of disorders. One of the tests detects cystic fibrosis.
Early diagnosis for cystic fibrosis through newborn screening allows for immediate intervention and treatment. Early interventions have been shown to: improve height, weight, and cognitive function, help maintain healthy respiratory function and reduce hospitalizations; they may also increase life expectancy. Ultimately, newborn screening can lead to longer, healthier lives.
Without newborn screening, irreversible damage to the lungs and digestive system may occur. Parents and families endure months or years of anguish trying to understand their child’s health condition before cystic fibrosis is finally diagnosed.
All of the provinces and territories have implemented newborn screening for CF, except Quebec, which has agreed to implement in 2018.