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Damage of 'False-Positive' Mammograms Overlooked: Study
Date:1/19/2011

er (around 57 years old versus 60 years old, respectively).

More women who were mistakenly told that they had cancer had to endure a greater number of diagnostic procedures (such as biopsies) than those whose diagnosis turned out to be correct. For example, while just 14 percent of those women who actually did have cancer had to undergo four post-screening diagnostic procedures, the same was true for 32 percent of the false-positive group.

In fact, 55 percent of the false-positive group had to return to the outpatient clinic within the first year after initial screening. Some had to do so as many as eight times, the authors noted.

Among the false-positive patients, the multiple visits and screenings were associated with high levels of anxiety, which the researchers considered a direct result of having to undergo so many subsequent screenings and diagnostic exams.

"The decision to participate in a screening program requires balanced information about the potential benefits and dangers," van der Steeg said. "Women often overestimate their risk of breast cancer and the materials provided by health care professionals and government agencies often focus on the positive aspects of screening and are not always objective."

More information

For more on breast cancer screenings and false-positive results, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

-- Alan Mozes

SOURCE: British Journal of Surgery, news release, Jan. 13, 2011


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