When women have a false-positive mammogram that leads to a diagnosis of breast cancer which is later ruled out can lead to stress and anxiety on a scale with women whose cancer diagnosis is confirmed.
Investigators from the Research Unit and Section of General Practice, Department of Public Health, at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark arrived at this conclusion after a study that recruited 454 women with abnormal mammogram results from over a one-year period. Two women with normal mammograms were matched for each woman with an abnormal finding on a screening mammogram (false and true positives).
In the study the authors note that the "risk of a false positive for every 10 screenings ranges from 20 percent to 60 percent in the U.S."
Among the participants with abnormal mammograms, 174 proved to be accurate and 272 proved to be false-positive. A diagnosis of breast cancer generally only folows after a second mammogram and another more objective test, such as a biopsy.
At baseline; and at one, six, eighteen, and thirty-six months, participants completed the Consequences of Screening in Breast Cancer questionnaire which features 12 psychosocial results asking women about their sense of calmness, anxiety about breast cancer and optimism about the future.
What the investigators found was that the psychological toll of a false-positive was very similar to a confirmed positive mammogram, creating similar levels of stress and anxiety in these women which in many cases required almost three years to dissipate. Such findings draw more attention to the need for task force recommendations on breast cancer screening to take into account the potential for false-positive results due to the long-term psychological stress they can cause.
These findings have been published in the journal Annals of Family Medicine.
Source: Annals of Family Medicine.
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