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Home Health Test Kits: Do or Don't?

Home health test kits are cheaper and more convenient than a trip to the doc's. But should you use them?

home health test kit

Photo: Claire Norman / www.123rf.com

When life’s many demands get in the way, our health is often the first thing to take a back seat. But these days, the availability of home health test kits makes it easier to track your health. Cheaper, faster and more convenient (no queuing needed!) than a visit to the doctor’s, home health test kits have also been found to prompt more people to undergo proper health checks.

In fact, a study on the use of home test kits for the human papillomavirus, responsible for most cases of cervical cancer, showed that it has led to twice as many cases being diagnosed compared to regular screening programmes, says Professor Chris Meijer, the study’s lead researcher and a professor of pathology at Amsterdam VU University Medical Centre, The Netherlands.

The flip side? Home health test kits aren’t always 100 per cent accurate. Plus, they tend to raise more questions than they answer, says Dr Gwee Kok Ann, consultant gastroenterologist at Stomach, Liver and Bowel Clinic. For instance, while a liver function test is designed to highlight possible problems, it cannot pinpoint the type of disease, the stage it is in, and whether there are other underlying conditions that could have skewed the results, he explains.

Human error can also come into play. Accidental contact with skin or water can contaminate the sample and skew the outcome. What’s more, it’s possible to interpret the results wrongly. A poorly designed colour chart, for instance, can lead to unnecessary confusion, adds Liu Yuan Tai, a pharmacist at Watsons.

The bottom line: While some preventative measures are better than none, don’t rely solely on DIY detectors especially if you already show symptoms or belong to a high- risk group. Home health test kits can’t – and shouldn’t – replace traditional screening methods, which still remain your best bet when it comes to identifying the exact ailment you may be suffering from, says Yuan Tai.

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