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False-Positive Mammogram Results May Turn Out Not to Be: Study
Date:4/6/2012

in the year 2000 or later, the link with the increased risk was not significant from a statistical point of view, the study authors noted. "The excess risk might still be there," von Euler-Chelpin said. It could be, she said, that there were not enough cases to detect accurately any increase in risk.

Why would the women with false-positive results be at higher risk? "The reason for this is not known, but misclassification is a possibility," von Euler-Chelpin said. That is, the women actually had breast cancer but the tests did not detect it.

Whether the findings would apply to U.S. women is not clear, said Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chair of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. She reviewed the findings but was not involved in the study.

The research seems to suggest that ''screening has gotten so much better [that] we are more accurate," Bernik said. "We are better at figuring out who needs a biopsy and who doesn't," she added.

"In the past, false positives [in the study] were clearly an indication of an increased risk of getting breast cancer," Bernik said of the study findings. "Now, it is less clear," she said of the more recent findings, since 2000.

The Danish researchers encourage women with false-positive tests to continue to get regular follow-up screenings as recommended by their doctors.

In the United States, Bernik said, a woman who has had a false-positive mammogram result is often, but not always, advised to get another mammogram in six months. It depends on what the doctors see on the mammogram and other information. Women should follow their doctors' advice on the follow-up schedule, she said, as every case is different.

Bernik finds that among her patients, women who have had a previous false-positive result -- and had further testing that ruled out cancer -- often say they are tempted to ignore recommendations to get further testing when they get a repeat mammogram result that calls for fu
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