False alarm Mammograms impact Women’s attitude toward breast cancer screening

False alarm mammograms impacts women’s attitude toward breast cancer screenings

False alarm mammograms can have significant impact on women’s attitude toward breast cancer screenings, a new study in the distress of getting a false-positive result from a mammogram suggested.

According to the study, women who are told that their suspicious mammogram was false alarm are more likely to delay and possibly skip their next scheduled mammogram screening.

A team of researchers led by Firas Dabbous of Advocate Lutheran General Hospital looked at data of more than 741,000 mammograms conducted on nearly 262,000 women in the Chicago area from 2001 and 2014; and found that more than 12 per cent of the X-rays yielded a false-positive result.

Nearly 15 per cent of women who received negative results didn’t return for a mammogram, and the percentage jumped to 22 per cent among those who received a false-positive result.

The finding highlighted an unintended consequence of false mammogram alarms, known as false positives.

Sharing their findings, the researchers wrote, “Experiencing a false positive (FP) screening mammogram is economically, physically, and emotionally burdensome, which may affect future screening behavior by delaying the next scheduled mammogram or by avoiding screening altogether.”

The alarming findings of the study were detailed in the Thursday (February 9th) edition of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

"The medical literature suggests the experience of a false positive can cause anxiety, worry, and affect the woman's quality of life," said lead author Firas M. Dabbous. "That may deter a woman from coming back. She thinks, 'I don’t want to go through it again.' But you can also argue the other way around. She thinks, 'I'm happy they found nothing, and I'd go through that again to be sure I don't have cancer.' The hypothesis I went with is that the experience deters women from coming back."

A report published by Philly.com informed, "The study also found that women with false positives were slower to return for a routine annual mammogram. They took a median of 25 months from the initial screening, compared with 15 months for women with true negative mammograms. After adjustment, women with true negatives delayed a median of 18 months."

Debates over how often women should get mammograms often focus on whether false positives - which can cause women to experience anxiety as well as painful and expensive extra testing, including biopsies – represent a harm that outweighs the benefits of screening.

"The delays the authors observed were significant," Robert Smith, vice president for cancer screening at the American Cancer Society, told Reuters Health by email. "If these findings can be validated in other studies, then it suggests that extra attention should be dedicated to insuring that women with false positive findings are reminded to return to annual or biennial screening with sufficient notice and multiple reminders."

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