Can DIY Medical Tests Be Trusted?

"So, I think they're a mixed blessing. I think at-home HIV tests have some real advantages," said Steiner. "But just as people have misconceptions about how we're going to interact with them when they come in for testing they may also have misconceptions about what the results mean."

Home Colorectal Disease Symptom Test

It's no wonder why some people would want to do their own at-home colorectal disease symptom test rather than giving a stool sample to a doctor. Home colorectal tests to detect blood in the stool are one of the Top 20 sellers on Amazon.com and can go for as little as $5.50.

Dr. Patricia Clancy, a family physician in Concord, N.H., said most of her patients wanting a colorectal test are trying to avoid the dreaded colonoscopy.

"If it's the same technology that we use when we test for blood in the stools, then I could see this as mildly helpful, only if the person then goes off to the doctor if it's positive," said Clancy. "The test is not as good as a colonoscopy, but some patients won't get them any way."

However, Dr. Steiner sees less use for the at-home tests.

"Blood in the stool can be an indication for colon cancer," said Steiner. "But you could have blood in the stool because you have colon cancer, because you have hemorrhoids; you could have it because you took aspirin, because you eat a lot of iron and because you ate red meat."

Without a doctor's knowledge of a host of other symptoms, warning signs and the meaning of your medical history, Steiner said she saw little point in doing this test at home.

"I will bet you dollars to donuts that those kits don't come with all that information," said Steiner.

Home Anemia Test

Anemia can have telltale signs of its own -- pale complexion, dizziness, fatigue -- and if a person can stomach pricking their own finger, then they can find out whether their anemic with much greater accuracy.

Mail order kits can run from $29.99 and up on Amazon.com and often are sold alongside iron supplements.

But primary care physicians say this test may not make sense for any patients.

"I'm a little puzzled as to why someone would have it. The reasons you could be anemic is a list as long as your arm," said Steiner. Someone may be anemic from a cancer, iron deficiency or leukemia, Steiner said.

In which case, the doctor would treat the underlying condition, not the symptom of anemia.

"If you already know that your anemic from your doctor, then the doctor doesn't want you to be at-home testing, they want you to be in their office," she said.

"The overall challenge is this: Interpreting the results of the test is as important as getting the test," she said.

That doesn't mean Steiner is against all at-home tests.

"Home blood pressure monitory makes a lot of sense, glucose monitoring makes sense," she said. "This doesn't make any sense at all you're not going to be checking it every day."

Test for pH Level

Much like a potential urinary tract infection, testing the pH of vaginal secretions may have some benefit.

"This one is based on a little bit of science," said Clancy, the family doctor in Concord, N.H. "Women think yeast is the only kind of infection that there is and there are many more."

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