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“The technology … expands services to patients who may not currently have access,” she said.

Earlier this year, Van Every’s site introduced an at-home cervical cancer test with a special tampon.

Peter Sasieni, an epidemiologist at Cancer Research U.K., said the charity did not support the wide availability of the test because there isn’t enough data to prove it works. He said women who shouldn’t be screened, like those under 25 might order the test online, get a false positive and then face further unnecessary exams and anxiety.

Doctors working online said patients must accept some responsibility for their own safety.

“There are always people who will do things that are not in their own interest,” said Dr. Tony Steele, who runs the online service, Doctor Fox.

He said that for drugs like Viagra, patients are explicitly warned about the dangers of taking it if they are also on heart medicines with nitrates. Steele said that if patients order excessive amounts of certain drugs, doctors call the patient to find out what’s going on.

Ceri Jones, who used an online doctor to prevent seasickness, said she wouldn’t use the Internet for more complicated issues.

“If I had something like heart palpitations, I wouldn’t go online,” she said. “But if it’s something simple and I’ve researched what I need, then seeing a doctor seems like a waste of time.”

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Online:

http://www.drthom.com

http://www.doctorfox.co.uk

http://www.rcplondon.ac.uk

http://www.aafp.org