Doctors are calling for women to receive more information about the pitfalls of breast cancer screening, as well as the benefits, after some women who received false-positive results faced serious anxiety and reduced quality of life for at least a year.
A study published online by BJS, the British Journal of Surgery, shows that patients with false-positive results - where the mammogram is abnormal but no cancer is present - had to undergo more diagnostic procedures than women with breast cancer before they were given the all clear.
Researchers from The Netherlands spoke to 385 women with abnormal mammogram results - 152 were subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer, but the other 233 had false-positive results and did not have cancer.
"Common sense tells us that early detection of breast cancer is good and most screening programmes have been successful in reducing breast cancer deaths" says lead author Dr Lideke van der Steeg from the Department of Surgery, St Elisabeth Hospital, Tilburg, and the Centre of Research and Psychology in Somatic Diseases, Tilburg University.
"However, while some women truly benefit from early detection, others experience harm and unnecessary anxiety. The women who received false-positives in our study experienced a significant reduction in their quality of life, especially if they were prone to anxiety, and the effects of this lasted at least a year.
"In fact, women who had a tendency to be anxious fared much worse if they received a false-positive - which is estimated to happen in 60 per cent of abnormal mammograms - than if they were actually diagnosed with breast cancer."
Women with abnormal mammograms attending three hospitals over a five-year period were invited to participate. Their quality of life (QoL) was assessed using the World Health Organization's Quality of Life instrument 100, which assesses QoL in six domains physical health, psychological health, le
|Contact: Annette Whibley|