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With the rise of telehealth, home health tests, and mail-in genetic testing kits, there are now more tools than ever to help you keep tabs on your health and perhaps even lead the way to helpful lifestyle changes.

If you suspect you may have symptoms of leukemia, you may have seen several options for at-home kits. While these options may be convenient, we have a lineup of better options for such circumstances.

Also, read on to see what you can learn about your health from certain types of home health test kits.

Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that begins in your bone marrow. In adults, most cases are chronic, meaning that the symptoms may develop gradually over many years. Acute leukemia, on the other hand, develops more suddenly.

It’s always a good idea to err on the side of caution and see a doctor if you’re experiencing any unusual symptoms. Some possible signs specific to leukemia may include:

  • low-grade fever
  • night sweats
  • fatigue
  • anemia
  • easy bruising or bleeding
  • frequent infections
  • pale skin
  • unintentional weight loss
  • swollen lymph nodes, such as those in your neck, armpits, or groin

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, diagnostic testing can be critical in determining whether these are related to leukemia or another possible health condition.

There’s no one single test that can detect leukemia, and it’s even more difficult to try to detect this cancer on your own at home.

While there are companies that advertise home testing kits for looking for genes that may contribute to cancer, such tests aren’t officially diagnostic tests.

So while you may be able to see if you have genetic markers for future cancer development, there’s currently no home test available that can tell you whether you have leukemia currently.

Possible tests available for home use can give you an idea of your overall health and risk factors, but they can’t diagnose leukemia. Some of these options include home genetic screenings as well as complete blood counts (CBCs) done at a lab without a doctor’s order.

However, such tests shouldn’t replace those conducted by a doctor. Depending on your findings as well as your symptoms, you can also choose to have further testing done, as discussed below.

When considering testing for leukemia, it’s important to know the differences between diagnostic and genetic screenings.

Diagnostic tests for leukemia

The purpose of diagnostic screenings is to look for leukemia that’s already present. In some cases, these tests may be part of your routine CBC at your annual doctor’s visit.

A CBC is the first test considered for leukemia and other blood disorders. It measures white blood cells (WBCs), red blood cells (RBCs), platelets, and other important features.

In leukemia, a CBC may show elevated WBCs and decreased RBCs and platelets. However, it’s also important to keep in mind that such results could be related to other health conditions and aren’t exclusive to leukemia.

Other diagnostic testing for leukemia may include a combination of the following:

  • urine tests
  • bone marrow biopsies
  • cytogenic tests that look for chromosome changes
  • lymph node biopsies
  • imaging tests, such as MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound
  • lumbar puncture (spinal tap)

Genetic testing for leukemia

If you’re concerned about assessing your personal risk for developing chronic forms of leukemia, you may consider genetic testing. Such tests are helpful in determining future risks and may not be the best choice for confirming possible current leukemia symptoms.

For example, one 2018 study published in the Journal of International Medical Research found 753 possible gene markers for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) that may be detected through such tests. Such screening might be useful for determining your future odds of developing this type of leukemia.

While genetic testing doesn’t replace diagnostic testing for leukemia, researchers believe that molecular tests may act as complements to traditional tests you may seek from your doctor. In particular, genetic tests could help provide clues for possible acute myeloid leukemia (AML) prognosis.

It’s also important to know that the presence of certain gene markers in your test results doesn’t mean you’ll develop leukemia in the future. What these tests can do, however, is make you more aware of your personal risk factors so you can follow up with your doctor for regular blood tests.

While there’s not yet a test that’s capable of diagnosing leukemia at home, you do have options you can consider if you’re not able to see a doctor in person right away. If you’re currently experiencing unusual symptoms, it’s still important to see a doctor as soon as you can.

Here’s what you can do in the meantime:

Schedule a telehealth visit

A telehealth visit with a doctor may help save time and money from seeing a physician in person. This may be most appropriate if you:

  • are experiencing possible symptoms of leukemia, and would like advice on how best to proceed
  • have concerns about leaving your home, such as in the case of high areas of COVID-19 transmission
  • are interested in learning more about leukemia more generally
  • need a referral to a specialist

However, if you’re experiencing more severe symptoms, there’s a good chance your doctor will want to see you in person. When in doubt, you can call your doctor’s office and ask the receptionist which option might be best for your particular situation.

Also, be sure to check with your insurance provider that telehealth visits are covered. Depending on your provider, some insurance companies even have their own group of doctors who may set up telehealth visits at a nominal fee.

Finding insurance

Remember that under the Affordable Care Act, you can’t be denied insurance because of a preexisting condition, including if you have a cancer diagnosis. This includes Medicare.

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Order a CBC test

If you’re interested in ordering a CBC test without a doctor’s visit, you may do so through an independent lab. For example, LabCorp makes it so you can sign up for a CBC, take a test at a location closest to you, and then receive the results at home.

While such CBC tests shouldn’t replace those ordered by your doctor, getting one in between your annual visits may offer peace of mind. Also, depending on the results of your platelet, RBC, and WBC counts, the information can help you determine your next steps.

As with telehealth visits, you’ll want to make sure that your health insurance covers a drop-in CBC test. If not, ask the lab what out-of-pocket offers they have.

Reach out to cancer treatment centers

If you have a new leukemia diagnosis or you’re concerned you might have this cancer, you may consider reaching out to cancer treatment specialists. Some nonprofit centers may also be able to help you afford cancer screenings and payments, depending on your initial evaluation.

Consider home genetic testing to assess personal risk

Our final take on home cancer tests is that they may be useful for informational purposes only. You can then share your results with a doctor and opt for more in-depth testing, if necessary. There is simply not enough evidence to support the use of at-home tests on the market today for finding cancer.

While some lab companies advertise at-home “cancer tests,” it’s important to know that these are genetic screening tests that may offer you information about the presence of certain markers that could increase your risk related to cancers. Furthermore, while you may gain some information about your own genetic makeup, such home tests cannot diagnose leukemia.

Also, be wary of any home test that promises any diagnostic cancer capabilities. Without proper in-person lab work, such results aren’t possible.

Home test kits also aren’t typically covered by medical insurance.

Leukemia diagnostic testing is done at a doctor’s office. This can include a combination of blood and urine tests, biopsies, and imaging scans.

While some genetic screenings are available for home testing, these can’t replace more in-depth versions you may be able to obtain from a doctor or genetic specialist. At-home genetic testing may identify risk factors for cancer, but these kits can’t actually diagnose the presence of any cancers.

If you have concerns about your leukemia risk and overall health, you may consider starting with a telehealth visit or contacting a cancer center for advice. You may also be able to order a CBC on your own for further peace of mind.

For any immediate concerns or worsening symptoms, see a doctor in person right away.