Mammography screening is associated with considerable costs linked to false-positive mammograms and breast cancer overdiagnosis, with national expenditure estimated at $4 billion annually, according to a study published in Health Affairs.

Mei-Sing Ong, Ph.D., from Boston Children’s Hospital, and Kenneth D. Mandl, M.D., M.P.H., from Harvard Medical School in Boston, examined the costs due to false-positive mammograms and breast cancer overdiagnosis among women aged 40 to 59 years.

Expenditure data were extracted from a major U.S. health care insurance plan for 702,154 women in the years 2011 to 2013.

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The researchers found that in the 12 months following diagnosis, the average expenditures were $852, $51,837, and $12,369, respectively, for each false-positive mammogram, invasive breast cancer, and ductal carcinoma in situ. The national cost was estimated at $4 billion per year.

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“The costs associated with false-positive mammograms and breast cancer overdiagnoses appear to be much higher than previously documented,” the authors write.

“Screening has the potential to save lives. However, the economic impact of false-positive mammography results and breast cancer overdiagnoses must be considered in the debate about the appropriate populations for screening.”


  1. Ong, Mei-Sing, et al. “National Expenditure For False-Positive Mammograms And Breast Cancer Overdiagnoses Estimated At $4 Billion A Year.” Health Affairs. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2014.1087. April 7, 2015.