Can DIY Medical Tests Be Trusted?

Allergy Test

ABC News spoke with doctors and an advocate for a recent article about allergies who indicated that an at-home allergy test was not worth the cost, even if its $50 price tag was much lower than the skin test a doctor would administer.

Get Your Questions Answered at the OnCall+ Allergy Center

For this test, a person would prick their finger and mail their blood sample to a lab, which would test it for 10 of the most common allergens.

"I don't think there is much value personally, because you're just doing tests without taking a history," said Dr. Anne Miranowski, an allergist with The Pediatric Lung Center in Fairfax, Va. "We determine what tests are necessary based on a person's history. We don't indiscriminately test before we see the patient."

Among the problems doctors cited with the test were the higher reliability of skin tests over blood tests, the fact that allergies might not be a person's problem in the first place and the fact that the 10 allergens tested for might not be relevant to people who live in certain parts of the country.

See how one allergy sufferer tackles allergens in her home.

And as allergy advocate Gina Clowes noted, the risk of a false negative on a food allergen could lead someone to try a food they were allergic to, with potentially fatal results.

"Allergic symptoms can run the gamut from annoying to life threatening," she said. "If you're having serious symptoms, for me or my children, only a real M.D. would do when diagnosing or treating them."

Urinary Tract Infection

With a test that is FDA approved, an at-home test for a urinary tract infection might be worthwhile.

As Peaceman, the professor of maternal-fetal medicine at Feinberg, notes, urinary tract infections have symptoms that would alert a patient, but the disease rarely causes serious illness.

"That and testing for vaginal infections ... those are actually probably good ideas, because frequently a patient will call the doctor and say I have symptoms of a urinary tract infection," said Peaceman. He said the doctor can then either prescribe a possibly unnecessary antibiotic or have the patient come in, which may take some time, followed by a test where results will take another two days to come back.

Breast Transillumination

Ever put a flashlight behind a live chicken egg in elementary school? Through the shell, children can see growing blood vessels, tissues and bones in the center.

Now some women are trying something similar with their breasts at home to see their own blood vessels and tissues among fatty tissue.

Marketed as a visual aid to help women see changes, or darks spots in the breast, at least one British company is selling this as a breast transillumination device called Breastlight as an at-home aid in monthly breast exams.

Dr. D. David Dershaw, the director of Breast Imaging at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, said he has seen breast transillumination before.

"It's been around for decades and does not detect curable cancers," Dershaw wrote in an e-mail to ABCNews.com. "This is probably used to help women determine if something they feel should be of concern."

While breast transillumination has been the area of several clinical trials for doctors' use, medical experts have been debating the idea of a self-breast exam whether or not it's aided by a light.

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