November 23, 2021 1 min read

Ever suspect that you have a medical condition but would rather not go to a doctor to find out for sure? Maybe you prefer to keep it private or save some money, or you just don’t have the time for an office appointment and tests.

Whatever the reason, more of us are already taking matters into our own hands, checking for everything from high cholesterol to diabetes. We’re snapping up health screening kits, which can cost as little as $8 to as much as $175, at drugstores and online. But just because the kits are widely available doesn’t mean they’re always a wise idea. Here’s our advice on when they do—and don’t—make sense.

Colon cancer

A colonoscopy can help prevent colorectal cancer by allowing doctors to detect precancerous growths and remove them at the same time. But about half of Americans avoid colon-cancer screening. An annual test for blood in the stool (known as a fecal occult-blood test) may be a reasonable alternative. Medical experts recommend testing samples from three bowel movements in a row to improve your chance of finding bleeding from polyps. Contact your doctor if one of the tests comes back with worrisome results.

What to try.The Second Generation FIT requires you to collect a stool sample. The kit comes with two tests and is said to show results in 5 minutes.