The Problem with False Positives

False positive mammogram results may make women delay or skip next screening

(RxWiki News) Women who receive a false positive result on a mammogram screening may be more likely to skip or delay their next screening, according to a new study. And that could put their health at risk.

Women who are told they have breast cancer but later find out they actually don't have it due to a false positive result found on a mammogram may experience unnecessary stress, according to the researchers behind this study. These researchers also noted that delaying or skipping the next screening after a false positive could hurt women's health down the road.

"We believe that the delay in subsequent screening for women who have an initial false positive result increases the probability that they will subsequently receive a later-stage breast cancer diagnosis compared with women who first have a true negative result from a screening mammogram," said study author Dr. Firas M. Dabbous, of the Russell Institute for Research & Innovation at the Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, in a press release.

Just over 12 percent of the 741,150 screening mammograms these researchers studied had false positive results. The remaining results were negative.

Among women who received a true negative result, around 22 percent had another mammogram later on. For women who received false positive results, 15 percent of women had another mammogram later on.

Women who had a false positive were also 36 percent less likely to go back for another mammogram in the 36 months after the initial one, these researchers found.

Dr. Dabbous said that, "... we need to more actively encourage women who have a false positive result from a screening mammogram to adhere to routine screening mammography recommendations because it has been shown to reduce breast cancer mortality."

Talk to your doctor about when you should be screened for breast cancer.

This study was published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

The Agency for Health Research and Quality funded this research. The authors disclosed no potential conflicts of interest.