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False Positives Spur Interest In More Mammograms

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You might think a false-positive result from a mammogram would make women shy away from the procedure. However, according to a new study published online this week in JAMA Internal Medicine, women who had received mammogram false positives actually expressed more willingness to go for future breast cancer screening than those who had not.

False positives did increase anxiety, but not over the long term, the researchers concluded. They got their data from telephone surveys performed shortly after screening and again a year later.

Here’s the bottom line, according to lead author Anna N. A. Tosteson, ScD, of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, and her co-authors:

We conclude that false-positive mammograms are associated with measurable, small, and transient effect on personal anxiety and that further research should address opportunities for reducing this anxiety.

Discussing the results with HealthDay, Dr. Tosteson noted, “At one year, there was no measurable increase in anxiety for anyone.”

In an invited commentary published simultaneously online in JAMA Internal Medicine, Kurt Kroenke, MD, professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine, praised the study but suggested the adverse consequences it found, “although not serious, may nonetheless be meaningful.”

On the other hand, the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging issued a joint statement declaring the following:

Like similar previous studies, Tosteson et al, published online April 21, 2014, in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), proves that patients experience short term anxiety regarding test results and that these feelings rapidly decline over time.

The statement added, “The study also shows that there are no measurable effects to women’s health from experiencing a false-positive exam as some have previously claimed.”

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Rat studies indicate that deep-space radiation might trigger cognitive impairments for some—but not all—human astronauts. For details, see our Facebook page.

Related CME seminar (up to 7.25 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): Breast MR

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