False-positive Mammograms Up Short-term Anxiety

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False-positive Mammograms Up Short-term Anxiety
False-positive Mammograms Up Short-term Anxiety

(HealthDay News) — False-positive mammogram results are tied to increased short-term, but not long-term, anxiety, according to a study published online April 21 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Anna N.A. Tosteson, ScD, from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Lebanon, NH, and colleagues measured the effect of false-positive mammograms on quality of life by measuring personal anxiety, health utility, and attitudes toward future screening. Randomly selected Digital Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial participants (1,226 women; with positive and negative mammograms) were surveyed via telephone shortly after screening and 1 year later (1,028 women).

RELATED: Do Mammograms Save Lives?

The researchers found that anxiety was significantly higher for women with false-positive mammograms, but health utility scores did not differ, and at 1 year, there were no significant differences between groups. 

The groups differed by future screening intentions (25.7% vs. 14.2% more likely in false-positive vs. negative groups), with significantly increased future screening intention among women with false-positive mammograms (odds ratio [OR], 2.12). Future screening was also significantly higher in those with younger age (OR, 2.78) and poorer health (OR, 1.63).

"False-positive mammograms increased women's intention to undergo future breast cancer screening and did not increase their stated willingness to travel to avoid a false-positive result," the researchers wrote.

RELATED: Clinicians Comment on Controversial Mammography Study

In an invited commentary, Kurt Kroenke, MD, of the US Department of Veterans Affairs in Indianapolis, the Regenstrief Institute, and the Indiana University School of Medicine, emphasized the importance of patient understanding regarding screening.

"Given the controversy concerning the risks and benefits of mammography, it is critical to enhance patients' understanding of screening, to engage patients in shared decision making, and to communicate and reconcile abnormal results in a patient-centered and efficient fashion," Kroenke wrote.

"This approach will benefit not only patients undergoing mammography but also those undergoing the many other screening procedures fundamental to clinical practice."

Several researchers disclosed financial ties to the imaging industry.


  1. Tosteson ANA, Fryback DG, Hammond CS, et al. Consequences of False-Positive Screening Mammograms. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.981.
  2. Kroenke K. Are the Harms of False-Positive Screening Test Results Minimal or Meaningful? JAMA Intern Med. 2014;doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.160.

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